Capitals

With so many injuries, Caps 'ran out of gas' in the playoffs

Capitals
Lars Eller

Teams can often be left searching for answers in the wake of an early playoff loss. For the Capitals, however, there is no real secret as to what went wrong.

"Coming into playoffs, I think we ran into some injury issues," general manager Brian MacLellan said. "I still thought we played good the first three games and then we ran out of gas and didn't perform well in the last two games."

Late in the regular season, the Caps kept losing a number of top players to injury. The hope was those players would be able to get healthy over the course of the series, but clearly, the injuries were too much to overcome.

Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller and John Carlson all were dealing with injuries that hampered their performance over the course of the five games against Boston.

"Down the stretch, we were just dealing with things with people out of the lineup for different reasons," Laviolette said.

For a team overall, injuries can often come down to luck. Every team that goes far in the playoffs needs some measure of luck as lucky teams escape serious injuries which helps them advance. This year, the Caps were unlucky, but they also were not helped by the condensed schedule.

"Our last six weeks, we pretty much played every second day and I thought we played well and then probably the last two weeks of the season, we ran into some issues and we didn't get a break," MacLellan said. "I think if we would have had a break, a week break, we could have caught up with our injury stuff and performed better in the playoffs but we just kind of continued to run into and we never caught up. We were always chasing injuries. We had a lot of groin issues, we had a lot of lower-back issues. It might be a factor of age."

 

Age obviously is a factor the team cannot ignore. As one of the oldest teams in the NHL, this will bring up questions about roster construction going forward. Are the Caps simply too old to remain championship contenders?

It is also fair to point out that every team had to deal with the condensed schedule this year. While it did seem to affect several teams, the unlucky part for Washington was just the timing.

"I think we sit here and go, 'Well all teams go through the same thing,'" Laviolette said. "Ours happened at the wrong time. Other teams in our division had it earlier in the year- where they had COVID [out]breaks, COVID go through the team and injuries happen to them so they went through a period in their schedule where they struggled through it and ours was at the wrong time for us."

And that's why the series took such a dramatic turn so quickly.

Let's not forget, each of the first three games was decided in overtime. Washington came within 2:49 of taking a 2-0 series lead before  Taylor Hall tied Game 2 and forced it to overtime where Boston eventually earned its first win. After three straight overtime games, however, the Caps hit a wall and simply could not recover.

"It is a physical game, it is a grueling game," Laviolette said. "We tried to give the guys plenty of rest. You saw the amount of time off we were giving them to recover from what they were dealing with from a fatigue standpoint and that is how the end of the season played out.”