Now? He just doesn’t want to leave with the same lament his former coach had.
“I’m so scared of leaving D.C. without having accomplished what I want to accomplish,” he said of raising a Stanley Cup, which seems further away now than at any time since 2008. “I think a guy like Bruce [Boudreau], leaving after he’s let go, is just upset that he ultimately didn’t deliver — because there’s so many people around here that deserve this.”
In case you missed this gradual siphoning of hope from a season — and perhaps an era — the Capitals are on the brink. With 26 games left and on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture in ninth place, they are frightened a 7-0 start is going to morph into a no-postseason, detonate-the-franchise finish.
Laich is calling the team’s road trip that begins Friday night against Florida their last chance to turn the inconsistency around, a road trip “that’s probably going to make or break our season,” he said.
Everyone is on edge.
The backup goalie and one of the team’s most respected players are questioning Coach Dale Hunter’s decision to not play them. Assistant goalie coach Olie Kolzig, who led the Caps to their last Stanley Cup finals, said Ovechkin needs to stop getting “wrapped up too much in the rock-star status,” a nice way of saying he should check himself before he wrecks himself. Pressure rising, Ovechkin and Dennis Wideman got into a practice altercation Thursday.
You can feel it everywhere. Comparing the hydroplaning scoring machine Ovechkin and the Caps became just four years ago to this malaise-infected club — one that has yet to find its identity amid the loss of Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom to injury — a team official, on condition of anonymity, said, “It feels like the air has slowly been let out of the balloon.”
Is it time to let go of this wild, five-year emotional thrill ride? Not this minute. But it’s getting extremely late in the game. Laich knows it.
“I watch standings all the time,” he said. “In my experience it takes about 94 points to get into the playoffs. And if we have  games left, and we’re sitting at 61 points, that means you have to win 17 games probably.”
That’s a tough task for a team that has won three times in its last 11 games and never really recaptured the passion or that potent offense that characterized so many late-season runs since 2008, when it had to run the table and win eight straight games to get into the postseason.