Capitals look to reverse fortunes in Stanley Cup playoffs
By Tim Wharnsby
(Reuters) - So much went right for Russian sniper Alex Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals this season that they might finally be set to reverse years of postseason heartbreak when the Stanley Cup playoffs open this week.
Ovechkin was the National Hockey League's top scorer for a fourth straight year with 50 goals, goalie Braden Holtby tied the all-time mark for single-season wins with 48 and Washington won the Presidents' Trophy for finishing first overall.
The 16-team playoffs, with the winner of four grueling best-of-seven series earning the coveted Stanley Cup in June, open on Wednesday with three games. Washington begin their series on Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Among the other key matchups, Canadian Sidney Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins will face the New York Rangers, while the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks will start on the road against the St. Louis Blues.
Ovechkin and the Capitals have first-hand knowledge that a successful regular season is no guarantee of playoff success.
Since the Russian standout joined Washington in 2005, the Capitals have never been beyond the second round and have lost a decisive seventh game in three of the past four years.
"You have to have luck on your side, you have to be healthy, and you have to be focusing one hundred percent, because the playoffs are totally different hockey," said Ovechkin. "Every game is like the last game."
In the past 10 seasons, only the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings and 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks have finished first overall in the regular season and gone on to win the Stanley Cup. Continued...