The Capitals concluded their 2016-2017 regular season campaign on Sunday night, falling to the golf course-bound Florida Panthers 2-0 at Verizon Center.
Here's Sunday night's Plus/Minus:
Plus: Garrett Mitchell, longtime Hershey Bears captain and beloved solider in the organization, got his first ever call up to the NHL tonight in the final game of the season. It meant a lot to just about everyone alive. More on that below.
Minus: You hate to end the regular season on a loss, but nobody got injured, nobody defected for the KHL, and nobody revealed themselves to secretly be Lord Voldemort in a school boy’s body. As far as meaningless games go, this one went alright.
And now, this...
Ten more notes on the game:
1. Tonight was game 82 of 82, the last of the regular season. With the real school dance about to start, would the Capitals enter the playoffs like a lion, or like a lame-o?
2. Washington used this evening’s exhibition to rest some regular starters before Les Enfers des Playoffs begin. Barry Trotz sat TJ Oshie, Justin Williams, Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, and Brett Connolly. Instead, perennial peripheral pitchers-in Taylor Chorney, Chandler Stephenson, Paul Carey, Nate Schmidt, and first-timer Garrett Mitchell sported sweaters tonight.
3. And let’s talk about that last name: Garrett Mitchell. Mitchell is the 25 year-old longtime Hershey Bears captain, as beloved in Pennsylvania as sweatpants and the Zac Brown Band. With a meaningless final regular season game in hand, the Capitals organization did a real classy thing and called up Mitchell for his first NHL start. After years of wondering When?, Mitchell was elated to get the start. His whole family was in attendance, he got the rookie warm-up treatment, and Verizon Center went NUTS any time he was mentioned. But perhaps the coolest thing? Trotz giving Mitchell the start, and Backstrom “accidentally” getting excused from the playoff dot so MITCHELL GOT TO TAKE IT! In all, it was a class move by a class organization. Congratulations, Mitchy, and way to go, Caps.
4. Along the same soft lace lines as the other resting players, Braden Holtby played just two periods before Philipp Grubauer came on in relief.
5. The first period saw 19 shots traded between the two teams, but no goals to report back home to mom and dad. It was scoreless after one.
6. The second period proceeded in much the same fashion, like a rerun of a parade. That is, until three minutes left in the period, when Florida’s Derek Mackenzie got in on a breakaway, ripping an honest blue collar snipe past the NHL’s best goalie to make it 1-0 Panthers.
7. The third period, like a little brother mimicking his predecessors, looked very much the same. At the halfway point in the period, Florida’s Denis Malgin, a Great Value brand version of Malkin, stuffed one past Grubauer to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead. It would hold until the final buzzer, and the Capitals would drop the last game of the season to Florida.
8. The Capitals finish the regular season with 118 points and 55 wins. But the real fun starts this week, and you know that as well as I do.
9. During the game, the Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in regulation, meaning The Capitals will officially face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs! Y’all ready for this?? *Space Jam music*
10. The 2016-2017 regular season campaign is officially in the books! What was your favorite memory? Share it in the comments! (Mine is Dmitry Orlov’s orbit-inducing hip check against Colorado!)
Next up is, well....the playoffs. The Maple Leafs will come into town (probably) Thursday of this week, their first playoff berth since 2013. Let’s give them one hell of a welcome, shall we, Caps fans?