What now for Washington?

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It ended with the final buzzer ending the third period of Game 7 in the 2009-2010 NHL playoffs. Looking out into a sea of red, disappointment was the only emotion that filled the faces at the Verizon Center.

The Washington Capitals, led by captain Alexander Ovechkin, lost by a score of 2-1 against the Montreal Canadiens, ending their season long run for the Stanley Cup.

“It’s just one of those things. You try to reflect and say ‘ How did we get to this spot?’ Two weeks ago we were on top of the world and felt we were invincible,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau.

It seems that everyone in Washington has an opinion as to what happened to the team. However, all can agree that it was a combination of errors that lead to the NHL’s highest scoring team’s downfall.

“I don’t know why but I think that how we played in the regular season and how we played in the last couple of games of the playoffs were two different teams,” said Ovechkin.

The Capitals, who have an obvious focus on attack, need to learn the other side of the game. A team can only go so far without a strong defense. While many say the problem could be solely blamed on the Caps’ defense, others attribute the failure to Washington’s sudden shortage of goals.

“There’s all this talk about, ‘ Is it our system?’ and no, it’s not. The whole season the question was whether we were going to be a defensive team, and after the playoffs we couldn’t score goals,” said Mike Green, Washington’s highest scoring defenseman and leader in ice time.

While the Capitals will certainly take their share of the blame, no one can deny the talent displayed by Montreal’s goaltender, Jaroslav Halak, who saved 170 out of 179 shots during the seven game series. The veteran goalie has been compared to some of the greatest hockey players of all time such as Patrick Roy. At this time, the Capital’s greatest strength is also a factor for the team’s deepest struggle.

“As a team, our best players are kids still. Most kids their age are just getting out of college and living at their parents’ house, looking for a summer job,” said Brooks Laich.

Unfortunately, because of the salary cap, we most likely will not see the same team next year. The greatest thing that the team can do is learn from their mistakes and grow as a unit. While the organization has grown to be one of the NHL’s most recognizable teams, many forget that it is still up and coming. The team still needs time to learn the ways to win. The only way that the team will become respected in the NHL is if they can call themselves Stanley Cup champions.

“Some people say you have to lose to learn to win. This is bitter disappointment, but in no way does it shake the belief in our players,” said Laich.