The All-Time Capitals Team Tournament, Part II

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Which Washington Capitals team was the best the organization has ever put on the ice? Four more contenders battle it out in Round 1 of our tournament to answer that very question.

Yesterday our tournament opened with the top-seed in action (and be sure to click through for background if you're wondering what we're talking about. Also, be sure to vote - the poll is easily missed all the way at the bottom.). Today we've got the #2-seed headlining...

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S
Season GP ROW ROL T/SO Adj Pts Pts%
GF GF Rk
GA
GA Rk
2 2009-10 82 49 22 11
109 .665
318 1/30
233
16/30
15 1995-96 82
39
32
11 89
.543
234 20/26
204 3/26

The 121 points that the 2009-10 Caps posted in winning the Presidents' Trophy obliterated the franchise's previous record (108 the season before), but that includes five shootout wins and seven overtime losses (points that earlier teams couldn't have been awarded). Of course, that'd be like noting that a hypothetical Usain Bolt record time was wind-aided - even so, he'd have been pretty damn fast, and that 2009-10 Caps team was pretty damn good. The 318 goals it scored were 17% more than second-place Vancouver, the power-play clicked on better than one-quarter of its opportunities, and the team's goals-against average was, well, average. Alex Ovechkin, with his 50 goals (one off the League-lead... and probably should've been tied) and 109 points, was voted the players' MVP; Nicklas Backstrom topped the century mark as well; Mike Green was a Norris Trophy finalist; Alex Semin had a 40-40 (goals-assists) campaign; four other Caps (Mike Knuble, Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr) all topped 20 goals; and the League's top-five in plus-minus were all Caps (led by Jeff Schultz's good fortune whopping plus-50). All of that offense made it easy for the team's trio of goaltenders to win, and Jose Theodore did that 30 times in 47 appearances (despite a 2.81 GAA and decent .911 save percentage), Semyon Varlamov won 15 times in 26 games, and Michal Neuvirth posted 9 wins in 17 games.

Then the playoffs rolled around. After dropping a stunner in overtime in Game 1, a Backstrom hat trick in Game 2 (completed in OT) leveled the series heading back to Montreal, where the Caps took both games with relative ease and set themselves up to close things out at home in Game 5... before dropping three straight and hitting the links. (This is already getting depressing, isn't it?) There was plenty of blame to go around - from Jaroslav Halak to Bruce Boudreau's coaching to a lack of secondary scoring to a woeful power-play to fog - but ultimately all that mattered was that it was another Caps team that fell far short of expectations.

The 2009-10 team will face Jim Schoenfeld's second entry into the tournament, the 1995-96 squad. That team boasted Vezina-winner Jim Carey, a 52-goal-scoring Peter Bondra, 115 assists from its top-two pivots in Michal Pivonka and Joé Juneau and... well, not a ton more. After Bondra, the Caps only had one other skater who topped 18 goals (Steve Konowalchuk with 23) in a season that featured 117 20-goal scorers League-wide. Where would they be without Carey's 2.26 GAA and 35 wins? Pretty much where they ended up in the playoffs - Carey would post an 0-1/.744/6.19 line (bringing his career post-season mark to 2-5/.816/4.62). And while Olie Kolzig valiantly kept the Caps in the series with a .934 save percentage and 1.94 GAA over five games, even staking them to a 2-0 series lead on the road, it wasn't enough, as the they lost the next four (including a four-overtime gut-punch in Game 4 at home that included a failed Juneau penalty shot attempt and the Petr Nedved game-winner).

So which team would win a best-of-seven, 2009-10 or 1995-96? Could Jim Carey (or Olie Kolzig) have Halak'd the underdogs to victory, or did Boudreau's boys have too much firepower?


S
Season GP ROW ROL T/SO Adj Pts Pts%
GF GF Rk
GA
GA Rk
7 1999-00 82 44 26
12
100 .610
227 13/28
194
4/28
10 1982-83 80
39
25
16
94
.588
306 12/21
283 5/21

In their first quarter-century of existence, the Caps won just one regular season division title. But new ownership and a still-new division - the Southeast - gave them opportunities at the turn of the millennium, and Ron Wilson's 1999-2000 team would be the first of six division winners in 11 years. Led by Vezina-winner Kolzig (41-20-11/2.24/.917), the Caps won the Southeast by four points and once again readied themselves for a playoff run... and once again ran into the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The 44 wins that team had during the regular season marked the high-water mark of the Wilson Administration, and the 196 goals the Caps surrendered still stands as the fewest allowed in a season, but Jaromir Jagr proved to be too much to handle in the post-season. Washington would rebound from a four-assist effort by #68 in a 7-0 Game 1 route to play four-straight one-goal games, but unfortunately for the D.C. faithful, only one of those went the Caps' way (a Game 4 sweep-avoiding home win), and Jagr finished the series with ten points and a pair of game-winning tallies.

Luckily for that 1999-2000 team - and every other team in this tournament - they don't have to face Jagr... in part because no Jagr-led Capitals team qualified. (And yes "Jagr-led Capitals" is an oxy-moron.) But the team they are pitted against in Round 1 is the very first Caps playoff team, the 1982-83 squad, a team which we profiled more extensively here.

The team was anchored by newly acquired Rod Langway (in his first of back-to-back Norris seasons) and an 18-year-old rookie Scott Stevens on the back-end, Dennis Maruk, Mike Gartner and Bob Carpenter up front and Al Jensen and Pat Riggin in net. They made a gigantic 29-point leap in the standings over the year before, but they ran into the three-time defending Cup champ Islanders in the first round and managed to win the first playoff game in franchise history on April 7, 1983 (Bobby Gould with the game-winner) before giving way on the Isles' march to four in-a-row.

That Caps team was the first of 14-straight to make the playoffs, and they'd helped both save and establish the sport for fans in and around the nation's capital. Things were very much looking up for hockey D.C.

So which team would win a best-of-seven, 1999-2000 or 1982-83? Would a team that had been to the Finals just two springs earlier have a leg up on the organization's first post-season entry? If low-scoring playoff hockey is your thing, this might be the first round match-up for you...

***

With half the bracket filled, here's how things look:

Capitals_tourney_part_ii_medium

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