Washington Capitals 2011 Playoffs Preview
The Washington Capitals have rebounded from some poor periods of hockey this year to finish as the best team in the Eastern Conference.
Washington struggled during the middle part of the season, and at one point, some began to wonder whether they might just free-fall right on out of the playoffs. Instead, they seemed to turn things up over the final month or so and leapfrogged a number of teams to earn the top seed.
That's critical because the Capitals finished the year with the fewest home losses in the entire league. Home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs could turn out to be huge for Washington.
With the Pittsburgh Penguins missing their two star players, the Philadelphia Flyers are the team standing in between Washington and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Alexander Ovechkin hasn't had the type of season we are accustomed to seeing from him, but he has still managed to have his moments. He recorded his 300th goal in the latter stages of the year, making him the sixth-fastest player in NHL history to reach that mark.
While teams like the Flyers and Penguins are always a concern, Washington's focus must be on its first-round opponent. The New York Rangers nearly eliminated the Capitals from the playoffs a couple of years ago and have had a lot of success against them this season.
Washington will need to be on upset alert, and I'm sure last year's failure will weigh heavily on the minds of all of the returning players. Bruce Boudreau will be sure to stress the importance of not overlooking anyone, and I wouldn't expect a repeat of last year.