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Location: Washington, D.C.
Stadium: Verizon Center
Conference: Eastern Conference
Division: Southeast Division
1974-now, Washington Capitals; [NHL]
The Washington Capitals was formed in the summer of 1972 when contractor and NBA franchise owner Abe Pollin won the bid over eleven other applicants in a National Hockey League expansion contract. The newly formed team played in the Capital Center in Landover, Maryland. The team joined the National Hockey League in the 1974-75 season with hall of fame player Milt Schmidt as its first general manager and Jimmy Anderson as its first coach. The Washington Capitals lost their first game to the New York Rangers with a score of 6-3. The teamís first year was not something the fans looked forward to since it ended with the Washington Capitals setting various records of poor performance. The Washington Capitals finished the season with 21 points after losing 67 games.
The 1976-77 season was an improvement over the teamís last performance since it won more matches than its first two seasons combined and finished with a 24-42-14 score. The next season was again a disappointment. However, the Washington Capitalsí performance improved remarkably when Danny Belise took over as coach in the 1978-79 season. The start up team finished the season with 63 points, its best record in the National Hockey League at that time. Despite significant improvement in the teamís performance, management decided to replace Belise with a twenty six year old Junior A coach from Peterborough, Ontario.
The Washington Capitalsí performance continued to improve. This is evident from the fact that Langway won another Norris Trophy; Doug Jarvis won the Lady Byng trophy for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct; the goaltending duo Al Jensen and Pat Riggin claimed the Jennings trophy for least number of goals allowed and coach Bryan Murray held the Jack Adams award as National Hockey League coach of the year. Unfortunately, the Washington Capitals lost four games straight to the New York Islanders, the defending champions finishing out of the playoffs.
The next season was a repeat performance of what the Washington Capitals had done most of the career i.e. perform average in the regular seasons and below average in the playoffs. In 1988 the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers by 4-3 in the Patrick division semifinals. But the victory was short lived since they lost to New Jersey Devils in the Patrick division finals. There were a number of changes in the Washington Capitals both in the team and in management in the early 1990s. Various exceptional players like Peter Bondra, Michael Pivonka, Joe Juneau, and Jim Carey were drafted by the team. The drafting did not improve its performance considerably since it again ended up losing in the first or second rounds. They finished with a 40-30-12 record good for 92 points and third in the Atlantic division after a series of injuries to its players. They defeated the Boston Bruins in six games and Ottawa Senators in a five game series in the playoffs and made it to the Eastern conference for
only the second time in team history. They came face to face with the favorite Buffalo Sabres whom they defeated in six games in a huge upset that left the critics shocked.
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