NHL playoffs

Washington Capitals seek a different ending

After being upset in seven games by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2010 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, the Washington Capitals were stunned. Here's what the Capitals believe they've learned about succeeding in the playoffs after last year's stinging defeat.

Forget the regular season

Presidents Trophy and Southeastern Division champions banners

The 2009-10 season saw the Capitals race to the Presidents' Trophy, earn numerous franchise records including points, wins and goals scored. Their dominance was so thorough that owner Ted Leonsis proclaimed Washington had arrived in early February 2010. All of that quickly became irrelevant after Montreal celebrated a first-round series win. Suddenly, the multitude of accolades wasn't worth anything.

This season, Washington managed to claim the top spot in the East for a second consecutive season after changing to a more defensive system and more struggles than the team had previously experienced. But the players understand it doesn't mean anything if they don't follow up with playoff wins. "We took a step back last year," forward Matt Bradley said. "Obviously the higher you finish, the better it is for your confidence and things like that. But when it comes to the actual series you have to be ready to play hard — none of it matters."

The Capitals say the No. 1 seed guarantees them home ice early on, nothing more.

Finishing first "is just one of those things that, yeah, it's nice but it shouldn't mean that much right now," defenseman John Carlson said. "Maybe it will help us a little bit down the road."

By Katie Carrera - The Washington Post. Published April 13, 2011.