’2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs Logo’
courtesy of ‘jpowers65′
Are you ready to rock?
The 2010-11 Washington Capitals regular season was just a long exercise in patience. It was never supposed to be a definitive statement of what the Caps are or where the franchise stands in the pantheon of almost-great NHL hockey teams.
If anything, it was an exercise in patience, humility, endurance, creative problem solving and transformation. The Caps were like a caterpillar that turned into a butterfly.
Washington started off the season a high-octane offense-first juggernaut – flying, big scoring, finesse and fragile. This was the version of the Caps that the fans had come to know and love and be continually frustrated by in the playoffs. Up until the last weekend of November, the MVP of the Caps was probably Alexander Semin. If you even thought of Semin as the MVP of this team now, they would laugh you out of the Green Turtle. Then there were the larval stages, December through most of March, where the Caps suffered through the changes of playing a different style of hockey, relying less on scoring (and scoring a lot less), integrating new players from outside the organization and folding in the prospects to the already young base of Alexander Ovechkin, Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green.
The Caps learned to play good defense. Not just the defensemen, but the entire team has gotten better on the back check, they are still aggressive on the forecheck if a bit tempered, and have the ability to trap and keep shots coming from the wings as opposed to the slot. It has not been a perfect transition – the inner offensive juggernaut wants to be free – but it has been effective enough where Washington was able to rally out of its doldrums, find some of it old offense and emerge the butterfly as the Eastern Conference top seed heading into the playoffs. The spinning wheels of waiting for the second season, the real season, are finished.
Now it is time to fly.
What do the Caps need to do to succeed in the chase for Lord Stanley’s Cup? Here are five items that will be important for Washington to get over its frustration and make a run deep into spring.