When the 2018-19 NHL regular season got underway, Carl Hagelin couldn't have envisioned what the next several months held for him. Heading into the last year of a four-year contract as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Hagelin was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings in a surprise swap some six weeks into the season. Ten days later, he was on injured reserve with a knee injury that cost him a quarter of the campaign.
Winning a Stanley Cup championship is a glorious achievement for an NHL team, as the Caps found out first hand just over a year ago. Perhaps the only downside of winning a championship is seeing that group of players gradually dismantled over the ensuing years, but it's the nature of sport and the business of the game.
When the Stanley Cup Final series gets underway early next week, the Caps will be represented behind the benches of both the Boston and St. Louis sides. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy served in the same role here in Washington from 2002-04, and Blues bench boss Craig Berube spent several seasons of his lengthy NHL playing career here in two separate tours of duty.
Late last week, the Caps' organization officially dimmed the lights on the 2018-19 season when its AHL Hershey affiliate was ousted in the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs. While we can still watch the last month of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the IIHF World Championship and the conclusion of the Memorial Cup playoffs in the coming weeks, by this time next month we'll be at or near the conclusion of another hockey season.
In winning the Stanley Cup last year, the Caps avoided one of the bleakest days on the hockey calendar, the exit interview/breakdown day that comes a day or two after a team has been eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Capitals still conducted such a day in 2018, but they did so on June 13, the day after a massive and jubilant Stanley Cup parade in downtown D.C.
Brock McGinn kept his team alive by sweeping a loose puck out of the Carolina crease late in regulation, and he scored the game-winning goal in double overtime to give the Hurricanes a 4-3 victory over the Capitals in Game 7 of the first-round Stanley Cup playoff series between the two Metropolitan Division rivals.
Old Number Seven - The Capitals find themselves in familiar territory on Wednesday as they get set to host a decisive Game 7 in a Stanley Cup playoff series, this one to settle their first-round series with the Carolina Hurricanes. Since Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin started their NHL postseason careers in 2008, Wednesday's Game 7 is the 12th one they will have played in together, a record for two NHL teammates.
Fade To Blue - The start was there, but that was it. The Caps had a pair of precious one-goal leads - the first leads any road team has forged in this series - in the first period of Game 6 in Raleigh on Monday night. But Washington was unable to add to or to protect either of those leads. And as the game wore on, it was unable to match the desperation and drive shown by its hosts, the Carolina Hurricanes. The result was a 5-2 loss to the Canes, and a deciding Game 7 back in Washington on Wednesday night.