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Did the Capitals peak too soon? Players share their thoughts

Did the Capitals peak too soon? Players share their thoughts

The Capitals’ 2015-16 regular season will be remembered as one of the greatest in franchise history. But their second-round playoff exit will soon be yesterday’s news, lumped in with all of the others that preceded it.

Is it possible the Capitals were victims of their own success? 

After all, this was a team that had an 11-point lead on the rest of the Eastern Conference at the NHL All-Star break in late January. By March 15 the Caps had clinched a playoff berth – with 13 games and just under a month to play. They clinched the Presidents’ Trophy on March 28, with seven games remaining.

In fact, if Alex Ovechkin wasn’t chasing 50 goals and Braden Holtby wasn’t chasing Martin Brodeur, the Caps would have had almost nothing to play for in the final two weeks of the regular season.

So, did the Capitals peak too soon?

“It’s all about timing,” Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “The year I won it in Pittsburgh (2009) I think at the trade deadline we were in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. It’s all about getting hot at the right time and peaking at the right time. 

“Maybe we peaked at the wrong time. I don’t know. I thought we were just as good as (the Penguins) if we played to our potential. But they played a little better than we did.”

Capitals right wing Justin Williams, who’s had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup three times, looked like he had bit into a sour grape when he was asked if he thought the Caps peaked too soon.

“There’s no such thing,” he grumbled. “No. No way. You always want to be your best.”

The Capitals might have been their best on Feb. 22, when they owned 44-10-4 record following a 3-2 win over Arizona, giving them a 17-point lead on the Florida Panthers.

Following that win, the Caps lost 12 of their final 24 games, going 12-8-4. They also won just once in their final five games (1-2-2) and everyone wondered if they could flip on the switch at the start of the playoffs. 

“I wish I could give you an absolute yes,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said when asked if his team peaked too soon. “But I can’t. I think it probably didn’t help a lot. I think it might have taken some sharpness out. I trusted the group that we were going to be sharp enough.

“Going into the playoffs we played the two hottest teams, Philly and Pitt. Our record wasn’t as bad as everyone was making it look like at the end, but we weren’t playing as sharply as we were. Down the end, if anything it hurt us a little, not being as sharp as we could have been. You can’t replicate being on your toes the whole way.”

Williams said the teams that win championships seize the moments to win hockey games. He believes the Penguins did that more than the Capitals in Round 2.

“It’s about scoring big goals and owning the big moments,” Williams said. “They owned more of them than we did and, in turn, they won a couple overtime games that could have changed the series. It is what it is. There’s moments in playoff series where you need to rise up and we didn’t get it done.”

Trotz pointed to the three consecutive power plays the Caps were given at the end of regulation in Game 6 against the Penguins following  back-to-back-to-back delay of game penalties to Pittsburgh.

“Maybe the last power play, that was a moment maybe we could have stolen it,” Trotz said. “Very few times do you get three power-play goals in a game, but that might have been a moment. And we had moments in the overtime where that could have been the moment and it wasn’t. 

“So, being able to say, not letting someone get the better of you, I think that will help us learn. I can give you a lot of examples and I have since I’ve been here of teams that had to go through a lot of pain, maybe a lot of disappointment, before they had ultimate success. I think for a lot of the players that have been here and have had some good teams and haven’t gotten where they wanted to, it becomes a little frustrating. You start to think it’s mental, but I think to the point where you won’t take it anymore, we’re pretty close.”

If nothing else, that’s what the Capitals would like to take from their fifth second-round exit in eight years. That they’re “pretty close” to breaking down that wall.

“You’re always learning something,” Williams said. “You can’t hope to win. You have to make yourself win. You’ve got to will yourself to win.”

That will be the challenge heading into next season, which right now, seems a long way away.

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Game 75 Capitals at Canadiens Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 75 Capitals at Canadiens Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadiens

Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Canadiens will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


The Capitals (43-24-7) take on the Canadiens (27-36-12) Saturday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Montreal.


The Capitals-Canadiens game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. for postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals at Canadiens
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime


You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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Touted Prospect Shane Gersich signs with Caps, joins team immediately


Touted Prospect Shane Gersich signs with Caps, joins team immediately

The Caps signed University of North Dakota forward Shane Gersich, a fifth round selection in 2014 and one of the organization’s top prospects, on Friday morning, the team announced.

Gersich, a left shot who is listed at 5-11, 175-pounds, has already joined the team in Montreal, where the Caps play the Canadiens at Bell Centre on Saturday night.

His contract, which begins this season, carries an average annual value of $925,000.

It’s unclear when Gersich will make his NHL debut, but it could happen at some point in the Caps’ final eight games before the playoffs.


NBC Sports Washington has been told that the primary objective for Gersich in the coming weeks is to get his first taste of the NHL by observing—and practicing alongside—his new teammates in Washington. If the opportunity to get him into the lineup presents itself, then it’s possible he’ll suit up.

The 21-year-old just completed his third season at UND. Here are Gersich’s numbers from junior and college, courtesy of


At UND, the smooth-skating and skilled Gersich also produced this memorable goal vs. Denver:

Gersich has been assigned jersey No. 63 in Washington, according to the Caps’ website.

The addition of Gersich and subsequent subtraction of Travis Boyd, who was reassigned to Hershey on Friday morning, leaves the Caps with 14 forwards on the roster.

“I think he did a great job at rookie camp,” Caps GM Brian MacLellan said of Gersich in July. “He was one of our best players, if not the best player, at camp. Really happy about the way he’s progressed and where we picked him. I think Ross Mahoney did a great job with that pick.”