Despite winning the Presidents’ Trophy last season, Washington again fell short in the postseason with a second-round exit to the Pittsburgh Penguins. There are many theories as to why this happened, but one is that with the Presidents’ Trophy wrapped up in late March, there just wasn’t much to play for. When the playoffs rolled around, Washington could not simply flip the switch to get back to the level they had been playing earlier in the season.
Could history be repeating itself this season?
In the month of March in 2016, Washington managed a 9-4-2 record. In 2017, they have gone 9-5-1. That may be surprising to some as it doesn’t feel like the Caps are cooling off, especially after winning eight of their last ten games. Here’s why this year feels different:
- Washington’s 2017 March record is dragged down by a stretch of four consecutive losses from early in the month. The Caps have rebounded for a strong finish to March.
- Washington had essentially nothing to play for in March 2016 and everyone knew it. This year, they are locked in a tight race for the Metropolitan Division with Pittsburgh and Columbus.
- The Caps had no control over who they played in the playoffs last season. In 2017, they lose the division, they could face Pittsburgh or Columbus in the very first round.
- The 2015-16 season was year one of the Caps’ two-year championship window as declared by general manager Brian MacLellan. Now in year two, there is more of a sense of urgency.
- The Caps added a top-four defenseman at the trade deadline, rather than depth pieces.
- Washington wrapped up the regular season in 2016 with losses in four of their last five games. With a win over Columbus on Sunday, the Caps would have to lose each of their last four this season to repeat that feat.
If this year feels different to you, it should. With four games left in the season, Washington still has plenty to play for.
In the final week of the regular season, who is make a strong push to enter the postseason on a hot streak? Who looks like they just want to pack it in and enjoy summer? Find out in this week’s NHL Power Rankings.