An unhappy Cap to the season
Washington battled hard but fell to the better team
Posted: Wednesday June 17, 1998 02:14 AM
Bad starts: In the series, Berube (left) and the Capitals were outscored 6-0 in the first period (AP)|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Weeks from now, many of the Washington Capitals will
probably look back on their season and call it a great success.
Immediately after being swept by the Detroit Red Wings,
however, the Capitals were in no mood to reflect on a job well done.
"When you lose in the final, you feel as if you've been fighting and
working hard but you have nothing to show for it," defenseman Sergei Gonchar
said Tuesday night after Detroit completed its Stanley Cup finals sweep
with a 4-1 victory.
The Capitals never quit trying, refused to back down and at no time gave
the impression of being intimidated by their first appearance in the Cup
Washington was not swept by the Red Wings because of a lack of effort.
There was really only one reason why Detroit frolicked at the MCI Center
with the Stanley Cup held high: The better team won.
"They seemed to beat us in every area," Capitals coach Ron Wilson said.
"Not by a large margin, but in a lot of ways."
The sweep took some of the luster off a breakthrough season for the
Capitals, who surged into the finals despite finishing the regular season
just 10 games over .500 as the fourth seed in the East.
Washington won three straight series on the strength of solid goaltending
by Olaf Kolzig,
who played well enough against the Red Wings' snipers. But the Capitals
were outshot 163-99 in the series, and Kolzig simply couldn't handle the
"It hurts. There's no question it hurts," center Adam Oates said. "We
played well and won three straight series and were on such a high in
Buffalo 10 days ago. Then all of a sudden you lose four straight. It's
The bottom line: Detroit had far more speed, depth and savvy than the
Capitals. The Red Wings played four solid lines, employed eight exceptional
defensemen and won a vast majority of the faceoffs. Detroit also had a
coach, Scotty Bowman, who was intent upon winning his record-tying eighth
Kolzig (left) was eventually overwhelmed between the pipes as the Red Wings outshot the Capitals 163-99 in the series (AP)||
After being outscored 5-0 in the first period of the opening three games,
the Capitals spoke for two days about getting off to a better start. It was
essential, really, because the Red Wings were 12-1 in the playoffs when
scoring the first goal.
Washington managed two breakaways in the first few minutes, a sign that
maybe things would be different this time.
As the period wore on, the Red Wings' speed and depth began to take its
toll. Detroit took a 1-0 lead midway through the period and skated off the
ice with the advantage intact.
It marked the beginning of the end for the Capitals.
"It's been the story of the series. They score in the first period and
we're playing catchup," Washington defenseman Joe Reekie said after
the opening 20 minutes. "We played hard ... but they're a great team."
The first period looked like all the rest, but this game was different
from the previous three for two reasons -- the Capitals lost each of the
first three games by one goal, and in Game 4 Washington was undone by the
one unit that had actually outdone its Detroit counterpart.
The Capitals had held the Red Wings to an 0-for-12 performance on the
power play over the first three games, but Detroit scored three extra-man
The last one put Detroit up 4-1 early in the third period, and at that
point the Capitals seemed to realize their fate. But they skated hard to
the finish, and when they went through the ceremonial handshake at center
ice after the game they had no reason to rue their luck.
After all, no Washington hockey team had ever gotten this far. And there
was nothing embarrassing about losing to the Detroit Red Wings, who went
16-6 in the playoffs in recording their second straight sweep in the
"We're not losers," Wilson insisted. "There's 24 other teams that would
have died to get swept in the Stanley Cup finals. I'm very proud."
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.