The core had been together for years and although it had a knack for extending its season to the playoffs, the group had yet to reach the Stanley Cup Final or even assemble a meaningful run.
With its veterans aging and their window for success starting to shrink, a shake-up to capitalize on the potential that still existed seemed like an option.
But instead of a teardown, the team opted for tweaks.
This history aptly describes the Wild but also the Capitals.
And since Washington’s journey did culminate in its first championship last summer, the Wild is hopeful a similar outcome can happen to it since it’s following the same script.
“I think by keeping the crew together, adding some real key important cogs to the wheel, that good things could happen to this team, as well,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
While there are differences between the two — namely the fact the Capitals are anchored by superstar Alex Ovechkin, a three-time league MVP who’s also paced the NHL in goal scoring seven times — the trajectory of a nose-dive in the playoffs after an impressive, sometimes dominant, regular-season performance is familiar.
While getting past the first round has been the Wild’s struggle, the second round was the Capitals’ roadblock; before its win, Washington faded in Round 2 three consecutive years, with two of those defeats coming to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“You just gotta win a round or two, and things can start snowballing,” said center Eric Fehr, who was with the Capitals from 2005-11 and 2013-15. “Every team that makes the playoffs has a chance. It doesn’t matter what your history is”
After its 2017 setback, the Capitals didn’t trigger a wholesale makeover even though the possibility was buzzed about in the hockey community.
Instead, the team re-signed core players T.J. Oshie, Dmitry Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetsov while losing forward Marcus Johansson and defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk, Karl Alzner and Nate Schmidt.
“When you have a team that is a win or two from the Finals every single year, that’s one or two hockey games,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “It’s easy to overanalyze and overthink and think things need to change. But if you continue to put yourself in that position, eventually it’s going to happen — and it did for them.
“Similar to us, obviously we haven’t been as far over the last few years. But it’s the same thing: You put yourself in a good spot with a good group and eventually we’re going to need to make it happen. But we know we have the group in here to do it.”
Had the Capitals snagged a Cup the season they fired Boudreau or even the next one, he wouldn’t have felt pleased for his former employer.
But since nearly seven years elapsed since his departure, he was glad the Capitals finally prevailed.
“Really happy for them because I still have really good relationships with a lot of their players and broadcasters,” Boudreau said.
“So I was really happy for everybody there, and I thought the city deserved it. But I think this city deserves it, too, so let’s hope it changes.”
Homecoming for Boyd
Hopkins native and Gophers alum Travis Boyd made his first NHL appearance at Xcel Energy Center Tuesday, skating on the Capitals’ fourth line.
Boyd made his NHL debut last season with the Capitals, playing eight regular-season contests and one playoff match, and that experience has helped him settle in this season.
“The way that everything is done up here is different from the American League,” said Boyd, who was expecting 12 family members to attend Tuesday’s game.
“Coming into this training camp, I was just comfortable. I felt like not only did I know everyone and I was comfortable talking to everyone, but I was comfortable with how they play up here and the systems they run.”