To say that the Washington Capitals’ 2011-12 season was tumultuous would be an understatement, but there were several moments that stuck out even more so as being just, well, awful. This is a countdown of those awful moments.
Welcome back to the “KOLWTF Countdown,” where we will look back at the five moments of the season that made us scratch our heads, throw our hands to the sky and simply ask, “Why?” Or more appropriately, “WTF?”
No. 2 – Buffa-WOAH (Alternate Title: Buffaslugged)
The Caps lost 40 combined games during the regular season, so there are plenty of defeats to dissect. Yet, there was not a team that handed Washington more embarrassing and/or potentially season-altering losses than the Buffalo Sabres.
November 26, 2011: The End Of An Era
Washington had seemingly recovered from a hellacious three-game road trip with two straight victories at home, but a 6-3 loss to the New York Rangers November 25 – the day after Thanksgiving” – gave “Black Friday” new meaning.
That is, until November 26.
The Caps faced the Sabres for the first time while the latter was missing nine regulars from its lineup. On paper, the game looked like an exhibition game between a NHL team and its AHL affiliate, but it was actually the Sabres that looked like the better team. The Sabres jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period with two goals in 4:36. Jason Chimera cut the Caps’ deficit in half with a penalty shot goal in the second period, but 27 seconds later, Zach Kassian scored his first career NHL goal to restore the two-goal lead. Buffalo scored two more times in the third period – including a backbreaking shorthanded goal by Luke Adam just 1:12 into the period – as it coasted to a 5-1 victory.
This game ultimately became Bruce Boudreau’s last. Two days later, the team relieved Boudreau of his duties as General Manager George McPhee admitted that the players were no longer responding to their coach.
December 26, 2011: Buffalo Stampede
Exactly one month after their last visit, the Caps returned to Buffalo looking to exact some sort of revenge. So much for that plan.
The Sabres steamrolled the Caps in the first period, putting the game out of reach within 15 minutes. Jason Pominville scored a power play goal just 51 seconds into the contest (Roman Hamrlik was the offender in the penalty box, committing a delay-of-game penalty nine seconds into the game). Matt Ellis, Christian Ehrhoff and Brayden McNabb followed their captain’s lead and Buffalo took a commanding 4-0 lead after 20 minutes before holding on for a 4-2 victory.
March 27, 2012: “The Seventh Game Of The Playoffs”
Entering the teams’ final meeting March 27, the Caps and Sabres were tied with 84 points in a tight Eastern Conference Playoffs race. Washington held the tiebreaker and a win would give them even more breathing room by way of a two-point lead. Head coach Dale Hunter likened the game to “the seventh game of the playoffs.” Considering Washington’s patented brand of bad luck in decisive postseason games (at least before this postseason), perhaps that was a bad idea.
The Sabres took a 1-0 lead on a very costly turnover by Braden Holtby. Holtby’s errant clearing attempt behind the crease found Brad Boyes instead of Jeff Schultz and Boyes sent a centering pass to Cody McCormick for the game’s first goal at 8:45. With less than two minutes remaining in the first period, Drew Stafford added another goal to give the Sabres a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Thomas Vanek made it 3-0 2:31 into the second, chasing Holtby after he allowed three goals on 18 shots. Alexander Semin gave Washington some hope less than three minutes later to cut Buffalo’s lead to 3-1, but near the end of the period, Jason Pominville took advantage of an Alex Ovechkin turnover on the power play, outmuscled the Caps’ captain and finished a 2-on-1 shorthanded break on his own to put the game out of reach and completely deflate Verizon Center in the process. The Sabres added another goal in the third period and won 5-1.
With five games remaining in the regular season, Washington was on the outside looking in at the postseason. Of course, we all know how it turned out; the Caps secured the seventh seed, while the Sabres could not take advantage of the momentum gained March 27, falling out of the playoffs by season’s end.
Regardless, Buffalo gave Washington all it could handle this season. It might be difficult to sum up how Caps fans (and the Caps themselves) feel about the Sabres.
Well, maybe not.
Check back later this week for the No. 1 “WTF” moment of the season.