History[ edit ] Early years — [ edit ] Along with the Kansas City Scouts , the Capitals joined the NHL as an expansion team for the —75 season although the city of Washington was awarded a franchise on July 8, Pollin had built the Capital Centre in suburban Landover, Maryland to house both the Bullets who formerly played in Baltimore and the Capitals.
His first act as owner was to hire Hall of Famer Milt Schmidt as general manager. The Capitals had few players with professional experience and were at a disadvantage against the long-standing teams that were stocked with veteran players.
The Capitals' inaugural season was dreadful, even by expansion standards. They finished with far and away the worst record in the league at 8—67—5; their 21 points were half that of their expansion brethren, the Scouts. The eight wins are the fewest for an NHL team playing at least 70 games, and the.
They also set records for most road losses 39 out of 40 , most consecutive road losses 37 , and most consecutive losses Head coach Jim Anderson said, "I'd rather find out my wife was cheating on me than keep losing like this.
At least I could tell my wife to cut it out. In —76 , Washington went 25 straight games without a win and allowed goals en route to another horrendous record: 11—59—10 32 points. For the rest of the s and early s, the Capitals alternated between dreadful seasons and finishing only a few points out of the Stanley Cup playoffs ; in and , for instance, they were in playoff contention until the last day of the season.
The one bright spot during these years of futility was that many of McNab's draft picks e. Pollin stuck it out through the Capitals' first decade, even though they were usually barely competitive. This stood in contrast to the Scouts; they were forced to move to Denver after only two years because their original owners did not have the resources or patience to withstand the struggles of an expansion team.
By the summer of , however, there was serious talk of the team moving out of the U. Then, two significant events took place to revive the franchise.
Playoffs streak and first Eastern Conference championship — [ edit ] First, the team hired David Poile as general manager. Second, as his first move, Poile pulled off one of the largest trades in franchise history on September 9, , when he dealt longtime regulars Ryan Walter and Rick Green to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Rod Langway named captain only a few weeks later , Brian Engblom , Doug Jarvis and Craig Laughlin.
This move turned the franchise around, as Langway's solid defense helped the team to dramatically reduce its goals-against, and the explosive goal-scoring of Dennis Maruk , Mike Gartner and Bobby Carpenter fueled the offensive attack.
Another significant move was the drafting of defenseman Scott Stevens during the NHL Entry Draft the pick was made by interim general manager Roger Crozier , prior to Poile's hiring. The result was a point jump, a third-place finish in the powerful Patrick Division , and the team's first playoff appearance in Although they were eliminated by the three-time-defending and eventual Stanley Cup champion New York Islanders three games to one , the Caps' dramatic turnaround ended any talk of the club leaving Washington.
Fourteen consecutive playoff appearances — [ edit ] Drafted in , Mike Gartner helped the Capitals become a playoff contender in the s. The Capitals would make the playoffs for each of the next 14 years in a row, becoming known for starting slow before catching fire in January and February.
However, regular-season success did not carry into the playoffs. In —86 , for instance, the Caps finished with points and won 50 games for the first time in franchise history, good enough for the third-best record in the NHL. They defeated the Islanders in the first round but were eliminated in the second round by the New York Rangers.
The —87 season brought even more heartbreak, with a loss to the Islanders in the Patrick Division Semi-final. This series was capped off by the classic Easter Epic game, which ended at am on Easter Sunday The Capitals had thoroughly dominated most of the game, outshooting the Islanders 75—52, but lost in overtime when goaltender Bob Mason was beaten on a Pat LaFontaine shot from the blue line.
However, the goaltending once again faltered and they were eliminated in the first round by the Philadelphia Flyers. The Capitals finally made the Wales Conference Finals in , but went down in a four-game sweep at the hands of the first-place Boston Bruins.
Return to playoffs and first Stanley Cup Finals appearance — [ edit ] From to , the Capitals would lose in either the first or the second round of the playoffs.
They would eliminate the Rangers in the first round but lost the second round to the Pittsburgh Penguins in In and , they would lose in the first round to the Penguins and the Islanders, respectively. In , they won their first round series against the Penguins but lost in the second round to the Rangers.
In and , they lost in the first round both times to the Penguins. They would miss the playoffs in , but they came close to winning their first Stanley Cup one year later.
The Capitals won six overtime games, three in each of their series against the Bruins and Sabres. However, the team was outmatched by the defending champions, the Detroit Red Wings , who won in a four-game sweep.
That same season, Oates, Phil Housley and Hunter all scored their 1,th career point, the only time in NHL history that one team had three players reach that same milestone in a single season.
The Capitals went on to win back-to-back Southeast Division titles in and , yet both years lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Penguins.
After the —01 season, Adam Oates demanded a trade but management refused and stripped him of his team captaincy. The Capitals moved into the now Capital One Arena in In the summer of , the Capitals landed five-time Art Ross Trophy winner Jaromir Jagr , by trading three young prospects to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
However, after Adam Oates was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers , the Capitals failed to defend their division title and missed the playoffs in despite a winning record.
Still, the —02 season marked the highest attendance in franchise history, drawing in , fans and 17, per game. Washington returned to the playoffs in , but disappointed fans again by losing in six games to the Tampa Bay Lightning after starting off with a two-game lead in the best-of-seven first-round series.
At the time it was the longest game in the building's history and was eventually decided by a power-play goal by Tampa Bay. In the —04 season , the Caps unloaded much of their high-priced talent — not just a cost-cutting spree, but also an acknowledgment that their attempt to build a contender with high-priced veteran talent had failed.
Jagr had never lived up to expectations during his time with the Capitals, failing to finish among the league's top scorers or make the post-season All-Star Team.
This was quickly followed by Peter Bondra departing for the Ottawa Senators. The Lang trade marked the first time in the history of the NHL that the league's leading scorer was traded in the middle of the season.
The Capitals ended the year 23—46—10—3, tied for the second-worst record, along with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Alexander Ovechkin and the first Stanley Cup championship —present [ edit ] Dainius Zubrus had a career year with the Capitals during the —06 season, recording 57 points. The Capitals' off-season consisted of making D. Building a contender — [ edit ] The Capitals finished the —06 season in the cellar of the Southeastern Division again, with a 29—41—12 campaign, earning 12 more points than the —04 season, good for 27th out of the 30 NHL teams.
The team, however, played close in every game, playing in 42 one-goal games, although losing two-thirds of those games.
Ovechkin's rookie season exceeded the hype, as he led all —06 NHL rookies in goals, points, power-play goals and shots.
He finished third overall in the NHL in scoring and tied for third in goals, and his shots not only led the league, but also set an NHL rookie record and was the fourth-highest total in NHL history.
Ovechkin's rookie point total was the second-best in Capitals history, and his goal total was tied for third in franchise history.
Many longtime Capitals had career years, with Dainius Zubrus netting 57 points, Halpern having a career-best 33 assists, Matt Pettinger putting in a career-best goal, point effort and seven others on the relatively young team topping 20 points for the first time.
Two notable landmarks were also hit by Capitals, as the team's longest tenured player, Olaf Kolzig, won his th game in goal, and Andrew Cassels became the th player to play 1, games, although he did not finish his season with Washington. A notable first was that Washington area native Jeff Halpern was named captain of his hometown Capitals.