What do the Capitals do next after losing in the first round of the 2010 NHL playoffs?

The Washington Post's Tarik El-Bashir joins the discussion at Washington Post Live about the Capitals Game 7 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the NHL playoffs.
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 30, 2010

Less than 24 hours after his Washington Capitals suffered the worst collapse by a top seed in NHL history, owner Ted Leonsis said the team won't "do anything rash," but conceded that something will have to change next season.

In a post on his personal blog, Leonsis said Washington's "hockey IQ seemed low" in its seven-game series against the Montreal Canadiens, and he was not alone in that assessment on a day when the Capitals' unfathomable defeat-- they became the first top seed to blow a 3-1 series lead to a No. 8 seed -- was the talk of the NHL.

For Versus analyst and former Washington defenseman Brian Engblom, the entire series was defined by a single play with about two minutes remaining in Wednesday's 2-1 Game 7 defeat. Jason Chimera had a point-blank scoring opportunity, but Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges laid out as Chimera fired the shot and used his stick to send the puck fluttering harmlessly over the net.

"That right there might have epitomized the series," Engblom said. "Montreal's will to win was stronger."

All but three Canadiens finished with at least one blocked shot in Game 7, and the team finished with 41 -- or, just one fewer than the total number of shots the Capitals actually got through. In seven games, the Canadiens blocked 117 shots, which is 40 more than the next team and 75 more than the Capitals.

"Everyone on that team should get a medal of honor," NHL Network analyst and former goaltender Kevin Weekes said. "There were so many guys blocking shots that don't normally do that."

The Canadiens' goaltending was also better. After being pulled midway through a lopsided loss in Game 3, Jaroslav Halak stopped 131 of 134 shots (.978 save percentage) and earned the game's first star in the final three games of the series.

Semyon Varlamov, meantime, was the first star in Games 3 and 4 after replacing an ineffective José Theodore in Game 2. But the rookie allowed seven goals on 65 shots in Games 5-7 for an .892 save percentage.

"When you get 54 shots in a game and the opposition wins, chances are you didn't lose the game because you played poorly," NBC analyst and former NHL head coach Pierre McGuire said. " You lose the game because the other goalie was better than yours."

Leonsis didn't assign blame when he wrote, "we didn't adjust well on the ice to the new schemes coming our way." But Engblom and Weekes both said Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau's seeming lack of adjustments to his team's scheme -- as well as a certain star player's resistance to change -- was a problem.

"If you just play at one speed, one tempo all the time, which they do, at 100 miles per hour all the time, it becomes predictable," Weekes said. "They live and die scoring goals off the rush, and they got frustrated."

Engblom said he was stunned by Boudreau's lack of adjustments Wednesday, particularly his forward line combinations.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company