Last season left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth in Washington. The Caps dominated the regular season, wrapping up the Presidents’ Trophy for the top record in the NHL by late March with seven games still remaining.
And yet, once again, Washington’s regular season success did not translate to the playoffs. The Caps met the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round and were eliminated in six games.
Now, however, Washington will get a chance to erase the sting of last year’s loss in a second-round rematch with the Penguins.
“We were disappointed last year,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “First thing that you thought was about coming back and playing them again and here we are. Maybe not a surprise, but it's going to be a good match up. They're a good team, they're the Stanley Cup champs so it will be a really good match and we're excited about it.”
“Pittsburgh's a rivalry team, knocked us out last year,” T.J. Oshie said. “You don't need much more motivation to get started here.”
In the team’s 41 seasons, Washington has advanced past the second round of the postseason only twice and have failed to do so in the Alex Ovechkin era. Much of their playoff troubles have come at the hands of the same team they now prepare to face.
In the franchise’s 27 playoff appearances, this will be the 10th time Washington and Pittsburgh have met. Washington has gone only 1-8 in their previous nine meetings.
For a team looking to overcome its previous playoff history, it seems almost necessary to have to go through Pittsburgh.
“There's a history with the Penguins,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “I think it's fitting that we have to go through the Penguins at some point. Got to change the narrative hopefully this year and that's what we intend to do.”
The Redskins have the 17th pick in tonight’s first round. Things get underway when the Browns go on the clock at about 8 p.m. There are 10 minutes allotted between picks. If each team takes the maximum time the Redskins will pick sometime after 11 p.m. However, picks are usually in with a few minutes to spare so Washington will go on the clock sometime between 10 and 10:30.
So, what is there to watch for until then? In what everything thinks will be one of the wildest and most unpredictable first rounds in recent memory, here are five places where the decisions made could have ripple effects back to pick No. 17.
No. 1, Browns—The steaming hot rumor that has popped up in the last 24 hours is that QB Mitchell Trubisky, not DE Myles Garret, will be the top pick in the draft. Of course, that talk could be a steaming pile of, well, what comes out of the south end of a bull. If the Browns do go with Trubisky, who was expected to remain on the board through the first five picks, there could be a run on quarterbacks in the top half of the draft, with teams maneuvering to get their guy. That could push a solid defensive player back to the Redskins.
No. 4, Jaguars—Nobody is quite sure what is going on here. Leonard Fournette is the chalk pick but this is the team that drafted Blake Bortles completely out of the blue in the top five a few years ago. They have spent a lot of draft capital and free agent money on defense. They may be ready to move on from Bortles so a QB is a possibility, a move that would start or, if Trubusky goes to the Browns at No. 1, continue a run on quarterbacks.
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No. 8, Panthers—In a draft that is supposedly unpredictable, the constant in mock drafts over the last 10 days or so has been Christian McCaffrey to Carolina. It almost seems to be too simple to be true, especially if the top seven picks are loaded with surprises. The Panthers have plenty of needs and if they have a top safety or linebacker fall into their laps they could well bypass McCaffrey. That would put him in play for the Redskins at 17.
No. 13, Cardinals—We go back to quarterbacks here. Will the Cardinals, who have plenty of needs, take a quarterback like Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech to groom to replace Carson Palmer? If they do, that could force the a QB-needy team picking later in the first such as the Texans to move up to make sure they aren’t left out. That could have them on the phone to Ashburn offering their second-round pick to entice the Redskins to move down to No. 25.
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No. 16, Ravens—Picking immediately in front of the Redskins, the Ravens also have needs everywhere. Jonathan Allen and Reuben Foster seem like the type of player the Ravens like so there is the possibility that the Redskins could see a very good player at a top area of need slide back towards them only to get snatched up one pick prior to them going on the clock. The good news may be that many analysts have Baltimore addressing wide receiver or offensive line at No. 16 and those positions are not likely to be of high interest to the Redskins in the first round.