This shouldn’t happen, a team should not outshoot its opponents for seven straight games and lose four of them. Similarly, no team should win three President’s Trophy’s and never even make a Conference Final during the run of regular season excellence. Every team that has won three President’s Trophies for the best record in the National Hockey League (given to the best regular season team since 1985-1986 which guarantees home-ice for the whole postseason) has won at least one Stanley Cup Championship, although not always in the same year, except one; the Washington Capitals. No team has lost more postseason series when up by 3 games to 1 (the Caps have done it five times when nobody else has done it more than three). Arguably no team has had worse luck in the postseason than the Capitals, who in 26 postseason berths since 1974-1975 when they were founded have only managed to get to two Conference Finals, and the one time they did make it past that round in 1997-1998, they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings. Outside of the St. Louis Blues, they are the oldest team never to have won a Stanley Cup Finals game, with the Blues making three straight finals in 1968, 1969, and 1970 with four additional appearances in Conference finals since then to somewhat salve the wounds.
Deeper in this snake-bitten history though there is the present run of Capitals which began with the drafting of Alexander Ovechkin 1st overall in 2004 which has seen this perennially good regular season team reach new heights and new levels of disappointment. These heights in addition to the aforementioned President’s Trophies (2010, 2016, and 2017) include seven division titles (2008-2011,2013, and 2016-2017) six seasons where they finished with over 100 regular season points (2009-2011, and 2015-2017) which is a mark of excellence in hockey. At the individual level Ovechkin has won three Hart Trophies (Most Valuable Player Awards), and six Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophies (goal scoring titles) for the talented Russian winger. Yet despite this, and a talented supporting cast something always has happened to these Capitals and led to their demise in the first or second round. Sometimes it’s an ill-timed penalty, an injury, an unexplainable amount of bad luck, a hot goaltender, or as it has been 9 of the 24 seasons that they have failed to make a Conference final once qualified for the postseason; the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pittsburgh coincidentally has won all four of their Stanley Cup Championships after beating the Capitals earlier in the playoffs. This year the reasons why the Capitals capitulated will be some of the same answers the other 29 fanbases in the NHL have been hearing since Ovechkin came into the league unfortunately for the Washington faithful. This list of reasons includes the dominant play of Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury while Braden Holtby let in multiple soft goals. Statistically, they might offer that the Penguins dominated faceoffs despite losing the Shots on Goal battle all seven games, from the eye-test they may say Ovechkin spending too much time standing around a faceoff circle in the offensive zone waiting for the puck to touch his stick only to be smothered by Penguins once it got there. There are also these words from Steven Burnette a lifelong Capitals fan “at this point we have to seriously consider that we are just supernaturally cursed for some reason”. There’s always next year?