The Washington Capitals have earned a reputation as playoff underachievers.
Since getting swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals have 13 trips to the postseason, finishing as the top team in their division 10 times. In three of those years – 2010, 2015 and 2016 – Washington entered the playoffs with the NHL's best regular season record.
Not once during that span has Washington made its way past the Conference Semifinals, however. In fact, in six of those postseasons, the Caps did not even make it out of the first round.
With the favored Capitals down 0–1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the District finds itself in familiar territory for mid-April, questioning the meddle of the hometown hockey team and wondering if another playoff debacle is in the cards.
— Eric Hobeck (@eric_hobeck) April 13, 2018
But in all of the heartbreaking springs of years past, how often did the Capitals find themselves in a hole after the first game of a series like they do today? And more importantly, how did they respond?
The Capitals fell behind 0–1 to start eight different series since 1999 and they're 3–5 in those series. Not a surprising number, given the odds boost to teams who take Game 1s. Since the arrival of captain Alex Ovechkin in 2005, Washington is 3–4 when dropping the first game of a series.
|2000||2||1st (QF)||PITTSBURGH PENGUINS||0–1||LOST, 1–4|
|2009||2||1st (QF)||NEW YORK RANGERS||0–2||WON, 4–3|
|2010||1||1st (QF)||MONTREAL CANADIANS||0–1||LOST, 3–4|
|2011||1||2nd (SF)||TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING||0–1||LOST, 0–4|
|2012||7||1st (QF)||BOSTON BRUINS||0–1||WON, 4–3|
|2012||7||2nd (SF)||NEW YORK RANGERS||0–1||LOST, 3–4|
|2015||M2||1st (QF)||NEW YORK ISLANDERS||0–1||WON, 4–3|
|2017||M1||2nd (SF)||PITTSBURGH PENGUINS||0–2||LOST, 3–4|
When narrowing this set down to 1st round series that saw the Capitals drop Game 1, they're 3–2 over this span. Again, since Ovechkin's arrival, they're actually an impressive 3–1 in the conference quarterfinals when dropping the opener, and 2–1 in this situation when losing the first game of the series on home ice.
The Capitals have been right where they find themselves today, down 0–1 in the 1st round, four times in the last decade. Despite the panic presently gripping Washington D.C., they've responded well to similar holes in the past.