Heading into this postseason, all four playoff series the Capitals have played in under Coach Bruce Boudreau have gone to a full seven games. While winning was the ultimate goal, the players knew that if they could manage to close out a series before that final do-or-die contest it would be to their benefit.
By clinching their series against the Rangers in five games, the Capitals will benefit from several extra days of rest and recovery time for all of their players. This is also the first time since 1997-98 that Washington has captured a series victory in less than seven games.
“It’ll be good, guys are going to get their rest,” center Matt Hendricks said. “Anytime you can win a series you want to win them as early as you can. You hear everyone say the fourth one is the hardest one to win and we came out and battled and got it done tonight and now we sit and wait.”
While the additional time off is a welcome reward, Boudreau admitted after Washington’s 3-1 win on Saturday that he didn’t really know how to handle it.
“I don’t know,” Boudreau said when asked how he would use the days off. “I’ve never done it before so it’s one of those things that I’ll have to give my head a shake when I wake up tomorrow and find out where we’re supposed to be playing. It’s good because we’ve got a lot of guys hurt and so we need the time off just to recuperate.”
Every team needs rest at this time of the season. To further drive home this point, consider this: No team has gone on to win the Stanley Cup after needing seven games to win a first-round series since the Penguins did so in 1991-92 (beating the Caps in seven games after being down 3-1 in the opening round).
“I think it’s really important,” center Nicklas Backstrom said of the time off. “If you look statistically that’s something you see, short series. All teams that have been winning has had one short series. I think that’s good, this time of year you want to get that little extra break and make sure you practice good.”
The Capitals’ second-round series likely won’t begin until Friday or Saturday.