Washington Capitals

Wed, 18 Mar 2009 08:33

History of Washington Capitals

Information about the NHL team Washington Capitals.

The Washington Capitals are one of the five ice hockey teams in the Southeastern division of the Eastern Conference of the NHL. The team was founded by businessman Abe Capitals and joined the NHL as an expansion team in 1974. It first took to the ice on October 9, 194, in a play that can only be described as the worst in the season, due for the most part by the lack of able and experienced players on the team, with the WHA stealing players from the NHL during the expansion.

Early Seasons

The Capitals posted a dismal record of 8-67-5 their first season, 20 points lower than the Scouts, another expansion team. They also managed to post another embarrassing road record of 1-39. The second season was no different. The team had no luck in their second season, posting a record of 11-59-10 before they were back in the running for the play-offs for the 1976-1977. The Capitals unfortunately fell short of the play-off mark with a record of 24-42-14, but this was a definite improvement compared to their records for the past two seasons. They fell out of the race during the 1977-1978 season, placing at the bottom of the Norris Division with a record of 17-49-14.

The Capitals will only get their chance to play in the play-offs with the arrival of Rod Langway, who along with three other players were drafted into the team following a trade with the Montreal Canadeins. Langway captured the Norris Trophy and was instrumental in leading the team to the play-offs, where the Capitals faced the New York Islanders, who were on their way to a fourth Stanley Cup Championship. The Islanders seeped the Capitals after four games.

The 1983-1984 season saw an improvement in the team’s performance, with Rob Langway getting his second Norris trophy and the team surpassing the 100-point mark in franchise history and finishing in second place. This was followed by a bigger victory when the Capitals finally won their first series victory over the Philadelphia Flyers after three games. The Capitals were only knocked out in the Patrick Division Finals when they once again faced the New York Islanders, but not before stealing Game 1.

The team managed to finish in second place from 1984-1986, but they would face the Islander again in the play-offs again after 5 games with a score of 2-1.

Victory over the Islanders

The Capitals will have their much awaited revenge of the Islanders in the 1985-1986 season, meeting the Islanders for the fourth straight season and winning all three games with a score of 11-4. However, the Capitals soon faced another formidable foe in the Rangers whom the team faced in the Patrick Division finals. This time, the Capitals lost to the Rangers in 6 games.

The 1986-1987 season again saw the Caps battling the Islanders in the play-offs. The 7th Game lasted until the early morning hours of Easter with a stunning victory by the Islander, their fourth victory over the Caps in 5 years.
The Capitals won their first ever division title in the 1988-1989 season with a record of 41-29-10. However, this victory was offset by the defeat that the team suffered in the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers in 6 games. The team also made it to the Wales Conference Finals in 1990 but where defeated by the Boston Bruins after a four-game sweep.

The mid-1990 saw the team in desperate pursuit for the elusive Stanley Cup. They again faced the New York Islanders in 1993 but lost after six games. During this match center Dale Hunter checked Islander Pierre Turgeon in Game 6 after the latter scored the series-clinching goal. This caused Turgeon to fall on the ice and dislocating his shoulder. This injury caused him to miss the Islanders’ second round series against the Pittsburg Penguins and cost Hunter a suspension for the first 21 games of the season, the longest suspension meted for an on-ice incident for the history of the NHL.

The Capitals were on their way to the Stanley Cup finals in the 1997-1998 season, after defeating the Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, the team proved to be severely overmatched against the Detroit Red Wings, going down after four straight games.

The team missed the playoffs on the following seasons after their trip to the Stanley Cup finals, placing third with a record of 31-45-6. The 1999-2000 season saw Capitals goalie Olaf Kolizig capture the Vezine Trophy but once again the team was swept by the Pittsburg Penguins after 5 games, a defeat that repeated itself in the play-offs of the 2000-2001 season. The team missed the play-offs for the 2001-2002 season despite the addition of consistent scorer and five-time Art Ross trophy winner Jaromir Jagr with a score of 36-33-11-2, two points behind the final play-off spot.

The end of the season also meant the termination of Coach Ron Wilson, who was replaced by Bruce Cassidy. Despite Jagr’s presence on the team the Capitals failed to defend their division title and fell short of the play-offs. Jagr was eventually traded off to the New York Rangers in 2004 after failing to live up to expectations. A year before the Caps had started to trim down on their high-priced talents, and peaked in Jagr’s trade to the Rangers in exchange for Anson Carter. Bondra was also traded to the Ottawa Senators and Robert Lang was traded to Detroit, the first time that a high-scoring player would be traded in the middle of the season.

The Capitals managed to draft Russian Alexander Ovechkin in 2004 but only managed to have the Russian playing for the team in the 2005-2006 season. Ovechkin quickly became one of NHL’s rising stars at the age of 20 with his agility and lightning speed. The Russian’s 52 goals and 54 assists made him the leading rookie in scoring and earned him the Calder Trophy. However, despite Ovechkin the Capitals failed to make it to the to the play-off race and finished the season with a dismal record of 29-41-12. Ovechkin continued lead the team in all scoring categories but the capitals couldn’t seem to get themselves out of from the bottom of the rankings with a record of 28-40-14.

The team reinvented their jersey in the 2007-2008 season, giving their old star spangled red, white and blue jerseys a modern twist. They started by winning the first three games of the season, but their luck quickly run out, with the team winning a total of 6 of first 21 games of the season. Coach Glenn Hanlon was let go Thanksgiving Day and replaced by Bruce Boudreau. Under Boudreau, the Capitals would end a five-year losing streak by defeating the Philadelphia Flyers with a score 4-3 with rookie Nicklas Backstrom scoring the winning goal. The Capitals captured the Southeast division title for the first time, beating the Carolina Hurricanes in the final game. The team became the first team in history to make it to the play-offs after ranking at 14th or lower in standings halfway through the season. After the season ended Coach Bruce Boudreau was awarded a long-term contract with the Capitals. Ovechkin was also awarded the Art Ross Trophy, the Maurice Richard Trophy, the Hart Trophy and the Lester B. Pearson Award, making him the first person to win all four awards in NHL history.