Playoff Hopes on Life Support
The Washington Capitals are in danger of becoming the fourth Cup
finalists in NHL history to miss the playoffs in the previous and
following seasons. The New York Rangers last accomplished the
feat in 1950; the era before expansion.
Following a devastating 3-2 overtime loss to Colorado Tuesday at
a snowy MCI Center, the Capitals (27-32-5, 59 points) trail the
Boston Bruins (28-26-10, 66 points) by seven points for the
eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Washington has 18 games left and must pass three teams in the
standings to make the playoffs. The odds of that happening are
not good, especially with the Capitals slumping in the middle of
a five-game homestand, the longest of the season.
The last week, in particular, has been devastating. The Capitals,
despite out-shooting all opponents, lost must-win games to
Boston, 4-3, and saw a late 2-1 lead evaporate into a 4-2 loss in
a home game against the Rangers, who played without Wayne
Colorado defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh's back-breaking goal 19
seconds into overtime may be the straw that broke Washington's
spirit. However, coach Ron Wilson dispels that notion.
"We outplayed them, we outshot them, 2-1," said Wilson. "You've
got to give their goaltender (Craig Billington) credit. He made a
lot of great saves, especially in the last 10 minutes, and we
made a couple of mistakes defensively. ... We'll bounce back. We
always bounce back."
Defenseman Enrico Ciccone appears to be more discouraged.
"It's a cheesy goal," said Ciccone, disagreeing with the notion
that good teams make their own luck. "It's always that kind of
goal that happens. It hit off [Calle Johansson's] stick and
caught Olie (Kolzig) off-balance. It's too bad, Olie didn't
Washington has had a few sparks in the last two weeks. The
Capitals manhandled Tampa Bay, 8-2, and collected wins over
Pittsburgh and Edmonton. But playing under .500 will not get the
Capitals closer to Boston, Florida and the Rangers.
Three of Washington's last four defeats have been decided by one
With the trading deadline two weeks away, general manager George
McPhee may be forced to hold the fire-sale he postponed in
January when the Capitals climbed back into playoff contention.
Left wing Joe Juneau and defenseman Mark Tinordi are Washington's
most prized unrestricted free agents at season's end. Washington
would receive no compensation if Juneau and Tinordi are lost to
free agency. That is why the Capitals will likely make a trade.
They would rather get something in return from another club than
lose their top players to free agency.
Detroit was once rumored as a possible destination for Tinordi,
but it backed out when Tinordi broke his ankle Feb. 22. He is
expected to miss the remainder of the season.
Juneau, on the other hand, seems to be the most likely Capital to
be traded if McPhee decides to pull the plug on the season.
Rumors have Juneau going to several teams, including Ottawa along
with teammate Craig Berube for Igor Kravchuk or to San Jose for
rookie Marco Sturm.
Keep in mind, however, that rumors often come from unspecified
sources. McPhee may opt to sign both Juneau and Tinordi this
Calle Johansson broke Rod Langway's team record for most games
played by a defenseman March 4 by dressing for his 727th game...
Goaltender Olie Kolzig has started 18 consecutive games. However,
he is starting to show signs of fatigue, allowing more rebounds
and soft goals than usual. But there is no rest in sight for
Kolzig. Wilson said last month that backup Rick Tabaracci will
sit for the rest of the season.