I know it's still a little early in the year to be talking about this but the Washington Capitals have become the new San Jose Sharks in the sense that they dominate the regular season but fail to make any noise come playoff time. I will give you five reasons why I think Lord Stanley's Cup won't be residing in Washington D.C. any time in the near future.
1. Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom's inability to perform in the playoffs - Since entering the league in 2003, Semin has been regarded as one of the Caps top three forwards as has Backstrom since '07. Both are big parts of the Capitals successful regular season campaigns and help take some of the scoring burden off of Ovechkin but neither have really made any sort of impact in the post-season. Semin has played in three playoffs and has had 3-5-8 in 7 games, 5-9-14 in 14 games and 0-2-2 in 7 games, while Backstrom has 4-2-6 in 7 games, 3-12-15 in 14 games, and 5-4-9 in 7 games. Although they do look like decent numbers, neither player has really showed up and been the game changer they are in the regular season when it comes playoff time and that has certainly affected the Caps offense. Having those two players not produce like they do in the regular season is not all their fault, the Capitals rely on outscoring opponents to win games in the regular season but in the playoffs every team plays a more defensive game and it shows against the Caps.
2. Lack of Offensive Depth- The Caps are really a one-line team. They have Ovechkin Semin and Backstrom to lead the team in scoring but after that, not much can be said for the offense. Sure guys like Laich, Fehr, and Knuble chip in here and there but they cannot be counted on to produce consistently, especialy in the playoffs. This leaves the entire offense up to Ovie, Semin, and Backstrom, and, as stated above, the latter two are not all that reliable either. That means it's on Ovechkin to win them a series and one player, no matter how talented, can do that.
3. Defense - The Caps may just have one of the worst blue lines in the league, especially when it comes playoff time. The number one defenseman in Washington is Mike Green, and that's not saying much. Sure Green is an amazingly talented offensive defenseman and a perennial all-star, but his skills as a shutdown defenseman are not very high. He is always looking at the ice with an offensive eye and that hurts the team come playoff time. They also have young prospect John Carlson who is the same way, highly talented offensively but can leave a coach wanting more out of him defensively. To round out their D they also have Tom Poti (old and not that good) Jeff Schultz (again, old and not that good), Karl Alzner, and newly acquired Scott Hannan. Sorry Mr. McPhee, Hannan is not the answer to your playoff problems either.
4. Young Goaltenders - It appears the past few years that the pressure has gotten to Semyon Varlamov. The young netminder has left much to be desired as far as playoff goaltending goes in Washington. This year it may look as if two-time Calder Cup winning goalie Michael Neuvirth may steal the playoff crease from Varlamov, but winning in the AHL doesn't always correlate to winning in the NHL. It will be interesting to see how the young rookie reacts to the decibel level in NHL arenas when the Cup is on the line. If he can keep his head and not be rattled, it could be interesting this year, but I'll wait for that to actually happen before I believe it.
5. Inability to win in pressure situations - I don't know what it is about the Capitals, but anything more than 82 games seems to be just too much for them to handle. They have only made it past the first round of the playoffs once since Ovechkin has become the face of the franchise, beating the Rangers in seven games of the first round and then losing to the Penguins in seven in the second round. Aside from that, they have lost first round match-ups to the Philadelphia Flyers and the Montreal Canadiens.
As far as I'm concerned they can win as many games as they want in the regular season because when it comes playoff time they do not have to capacity to win. They have become the next San Jose Sharks (maybe they'll finally win now they have found their replacement) and unless they rework their team and get better players around Ovechkin as well as a D-corps that can actually play defense instead of offense (before they're too old and washed up), I would not expect to see "The Great 8" raising the Cup anytime soon.