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Ending D.C.'s playoff semifinals slump: A look back at 1998

Ending D.C.'s playoff semifinals slump: A look back at 1998

The Capitals advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs drains the swamp of despair that has plagued Washington, D.C. sports fan for two decades. 

With their 2-1 overtime victory in Game 6 of their playoff series against the Penguins, the Capitals became the first Washington, D.C. major professional sports team to advance to the conference finals since 1998.

 To put in perspective how long this drought lasted we look back at how different the sports landscape was on May 23, 1998, when the Capitals opened up Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Dominik Hasek and the Buffalo Sabres.



— The Capitals began the 1997-98 season playing home games at US Airways Arena in Landover, MD, and finished the season playing home games at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C.

— Future Capitals Head Coaches Dale Hunter & Adam Oates were on the Washington Capitals roster.

— NHL had only 26 teams (The Predators, Jets, Golden Knights, Blue Jackets, and Wild have been added since).

— Atlanta Thrashers, which now play in Winnipeg, didn’t yet exist.


— The Nationals were still roughly 7 years away from being a franchise.

— The Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays were only one month into their inaugural seasons.

— The Montreal Expos starting left fielder was FP Santangelo. FP Santangelo now does color-commentary for the Nationals. 

— Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr, and Randy Johnson were still Seattle Mariners.

— Ichiro Suzuki was a member of the Orix Blue Wave in Osaka, Japan.

— Bartolo Colon was starting just his second full MLB season with the Cleveland Indians. 


— Redskins were owned by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and played at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, which had opened less than a year prior.

— Redskins had no 1st round pick and selected Tight End Stephen Alexander from Oklahoma at No. 48 in the second round of the1998 NFL Draft.

— The most recent Redskins game had been started by Jeff Hostetler.

— There were 30 teams in the NFL split into 6 divisions. The Seahawks were still in the AFC and the Cardinals were division rivals with the Redskins.

— The Baltimore Ravens had amassed a 10-21-1- in its first two NFL seasons. The Cleveland Browns did not exist. 

— Peyton Manning, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, had yet to take an NFL snap.

— NFL icons John Elway and Dan Marino were still playing for the Broncos and Dolphins, respectively.


— Washington's basketball franchise finished its first season known as the "Wizards" instead of the "Bullets."

— MCI Center was less than six months old. 

— NBA on TNT color commentator Chris Webber and Miami Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard were the Wizards leading scorers.

— Michael Jordan and the Bulls were vying for their sixth NBA Championship.

— The NBA was made up of 29 teams in four divisions. 

— The original Charlotte Hornets existed with no team yet in New Orleans.

— Seattle SuperSonics comfortably existed with a 61-21 record. There was no team yet in Oklahoma City.

— The Vancouver Grizzlies were still a thing and had not yet relocated to Memphis. 

— Markelle Fultz still 6 days away from being born in Upper Marlboro, MD.


— John Thompson, Jr. was still the head basketball coach at Georgetown.

— Ralph Friedgen was still almost three years away from being named head football coach at Maryland.

—  DC United was in just its second year of MLS existence and had not yet won the first of four consecutive MLS titles. 

— Tiger Woods had only won one major championship. 

— The Bowl Championship Series had yet to exist.




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    Capitals playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly ready for his second chance in Game 5

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    Capitals playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly ready for his second chance in Game 5

    ARLINGTON — Devante Smith-Pelly will skate onto the ice at Capital One Arena tonight and the crowd will roar. They will chant “D-S-P!” and give him an ovation and he will try to keep a stone-faced focus, though it will be hard.

    Not bad for a player who was cut in February, passed on by 30 other NHL teams and banished to the minors after a disappointing season and a salary-cap crunch. But that is life as a Stanley Cup playoff folk hero. After scoring seven goals with 19 points during last year’s postseason, including the game-tying goal in the decisive Game 5 of the final series against the Vegas Golden Knights, Smith-Pelly bought himself a lifetime of good will. 

    Now, an injury to T.J. Oshie gets him another chance with the Capitals. Smith-Pelly will be in the lineup tonight when Washington hosts the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series (8 p.m., NBC). 

    “I don’t know if weird is the word. It’s a business,” Smith-Pelly said. “It’s hard to go through something like that. I missed the guys a lot. I still kept in touch with pretty much everyone. It was just going there and doing what I had to do and waiting for a shot. It’s unfortunate that [Oshie] had to get hurt.”

    Smith Pelly had just four goals and four assists in 54 games this season and was held out of several preseason games to get his conditioning where it needed to be. When the Capitals traded for forward Carl Hagelin on Feb. 21 they needed salary-cap space to make the move, according to general manager Brian MacLellan. He chose waiving Smith-Pelly over Dmitrij Jaskin. 

    When Smith-Pelly cleared waivers, Washington sent him to AHL Hershey so he could play and be ready if needed again. That didn’t seem likely when the playoffs began and the salary cap was no longer an issue. MacLellan said the team had no immediate plans to recall Smith-Pelly just so he could sit. 

    But the Capitals wanted him to stay in game shape in case injuries struck – and they finally did on Monday in Game 4. T.J. Oshie is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Smith-Pelly got the recall and is in the lineup tonight at right wing on the fourth line. It is another chance for a player who was once a second-round draft pick, but has been let go by three previous organizations (Anaheim, Montreal, New Jersey) and found himself on tenuous ground with the Capitals. This isn’t how he wanted it to be. But now he’s back. 

    “I wasn’t really thinking too much about it. I was watching the games and cheering the guys on,” Smith-Pelly said. “I wasn’t really sure. I definitely didn’t want to get a chance by someone else getting hurt. That’s for sure. So I don’t know. It’s kind of a weird spot. I’m focused on playing the playoffs there and helping the team there. I wasn’t really thinking about too much about what would happen.”

    News and notes

    Still no update on Oshie other than he’s out indefinitely, according to coach Todd Reirden. He will obviously not play in Game 5 after crashing into the boards following a nudge from behind by Carolina forward Warren Foegele. … Reirden’s lineup changes include Carl Hagelin moving to right wing on the second line and Chandler Stephenson joining Smith-Pelly and Nic Dowd on the fourth line. … After a nice first playoff game, rookie Jonas Siegenthaler will start with John Carlson, who moves to his natural right side. He'd been starting games on the left with Nick Jensen.  

    Game 5 lineup

    Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson

    Jakub Vrana – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Carl Hagelin

    Andre Burakovsky – Lars Eller – Brett Connolly

    Chandler Stephenson – Nic Dowd – Devante Smith-Pelly


    Jonas Siegenthaler – John Carlson 

    Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen

    Brooks Orpik – Nick Jensen 


    Braden Holtby 



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    NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Maple Leafs pull ahead of Bruins, Avalanche eliminate Flames

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    NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Maple Leafs pull ahead of Bruins, Avalanche eliminate Flames

    Thursday's games gave us another tied series with the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes, a slugfest between the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets, and the San Jose Sharks avoiding elimination at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights.

    Friday's games pushed the Boston Bruins to the brink of elimination, and the Colorado Avalanche eliminated the Calgary Flames in the Saddledome.

    Here are all of Friday's results.

    Maple Leafs take 3-2 series lead with 2-1 win over Bruins

    Frederik Andersen and Tuukka Rask were sharp for the first two periods, but Auston Matthews broke the scoreless tie with a controversial goal 10 minutes into the third period. Boston challenged for goaltender interference, but the goal stood. Matthews now has four goals in the last three games of the series.

    Kasperi Kapanen gave the Leafs the game winner on a 3-on-2 just two minutes later.

    The Bruins battled back to make it 2-1 with a backdoor feed for David Krejci, but they couldn't force a tie to send the game to overtime. Should the Leafs hold on to win, not only would they reverse their two-year trend of losing in the first round of the playoffs, they would win a series for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

    Avalanche extinguish Flames, win series with 5-1 victory

    The upstart Avalanche had four players hit three points in their Friday night upset over the Flames. Mikko Rantanen continued his punishing pace with two goals in the game, including the opening and closing goals.

    Colin Wilson also notched a two-goal night, and Philipp Grubauer held steady with 28 saves.

    This is Colorado's first series win since the 2007-08 season, and the Flames became the second first seed to be knocked out of these playoffs, as the Tampa Bay Lightning were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier this week.