May 28, 2024

Peter Laviolette coached the Caps — now he’s trying to eliminate them


NEW YORK — The previous 3 times the Washington Capitals made the Stanley Cup playoffs, Peter Laviolette was behind the bench. But this time, it is the opposing bench, as the New York Rangers coach tries to eliminate the Capitals from the postseason.

According to ESPN Stats & Information analysis, that is solely the eighth time in Stanley Cup playoff historical past {that a} head coach has confronted the workforce that dismissed him in the earlier season. The Rangers have a 1-0 lead of their first-round collection towards Washington, with Game 2 Tuesday night time at Madison Square Garden.

“On the positive side, it was great to be part of a great organization, great city and a fan base that loves their team and is passionate about their year,” Laviolette mentioned of his time in Washington. “From a disappointment standpoint, it was not being able to make any noise in the playoffs despite having the opportunities.”

There could be a sure irony to the Rangers beating the Capitals in the first spherical, as that is when Laviolette’s two postseasons in Washington led to 2021 and 2022.

The Capitals missed the playoffs final season — solely the second time in 16 years that Alex Ovechkin did not see the postseason — which led to what GM Brian MacLellan described as a mutual parting of how between the workforce and Laviolette after three unremarkable seasons.

Washington’s loss was the Rangers’ achieve. When New York fired coach Gerard Gallant after two seasons, it turned to Laviolette with a three-year dedication. The outcomes have been traditionally good for the Blueshirts, who received the Presidents’ Trophy for having the league’s finest report and had the third-best factors proportion (.695) in franchise historical past.

That report earned the Rangers a first-round collection towards Washington, the second wild-card workforce in the Eastern Conference. And it earned Laviolette a reunion with some acquainted faces one 12 months after the Capitals let him go.


COACHES HAVE FACED their employer from the prior season in consecutive playoffs. Dallas Stars coach Pete DeBoer went towards his former workforce, the Vegas Golden Knights, in the Western Conference finals final season. DeBoer really had skilled this beforehand, assembly the Florida Panthers in the 2012 playoffs throughout his first 12 months as coach of the New Jersey Devils.

Other coaches going through their former groups one 12 months later are:

The mixed report of those coaches in “revenge” collection: 6-1, with DeBoer’s loss to the Golden Knights final season the solely blemish.

Laviolette took over the Capitals in 2020. Washington adopted its Stanley Cup win in 2018 beneath Barry Trotz with two first-round exits beneath his substitute, Todd Reirden. Laviolette was introduced in to maximize the remaining rivalry window for Ovechkin and his veteran teammates.

“I thought the first couple of years, we were in a good position to try to get into the playoffs, make some noise and make a push,” Laviolette mentioned. “Last year was a little bit tougher. We were dealing with a lot of things all year, but especially at the end.”

The Capitals ended up 12 factors out of a playoff spot. MacLellan claims the door was open to have Laviolette return for a fourth season.

“I think he’s a good coach. I think he’s a good person. I think we were open [to it],” he mentioned.

But after suggestions from gamers and a dialog with Laviolette, it was determined they’d half methods.

At the time, Capitals winger T.J. Oshie mentioned “it’s the ugly part of the business” when Laviolette was let go, however he put his religion in administration that it was the proper name.

“I think he had some tough circumstances with injuries during his tenure here,” Oshie mentioned. “But I’ve said since day one that I trust Mac in his ability to put a winning team on the ice, and the coaches are involved with that.”

In the finish, issues seem to have labored out for the finest for each the coach and his former workforce.


LAVIOLETTE TOOK OVER a Rangers workforce that wanted his defensive construction and encouragement to play with extra tempo, which turned it right into a critical Stanley Cup contender. The Capitals employed Spencer Carbery, 42, who was an assistant coach with Toronto after three seasons as the Capitals’ AHL coach in Hershey. His personal defensive system helped Washington emerge from a wild-card bubble pileup to return to the playoffs, whereas his age positions him nicely for the workforce’s ongoing youth motion.

“Very poised,” Oshie mentioned of Carbery. “He’s very good at the message that he sends to the team. He’s very good at timing with what the message is and what it needs to be. He definitely came in not looking like a first-year head coach.”

Carbery is not the solely new face for the Capitals. Laviolette, 59, coached simply over a dozen gamers who’re on the Washington roster for this collection.

“It might be a bit more strange for guys that have been here for a while that had him for three years here. But I only had him for one year and we got along really well,” middle Dylan Strome mentioned. “I had my best year at the time when he was my coach. Very open and very honest with me as my coach, and I’ll always appreciate him for that.”

Still there are veterans who stay on the roster that Laviolette is aware of nicely.

“I think it goes both ways. I think they also have an insight into me and my systems,” the coach mentioned. “But that was the case going into the four games we played in the regular season.”

The Capitals’ energy play is stuffed with veterans Laviolette had all three seasons in Washington: Ovechkin, Oshie, Tom Wilson and John Carlson, for instance.

The Rangers’ penalty kill, ranked third in the common season, shut down the Caps’ energy play in Game 1, because it went 0-for-4. In 4 regular-season video games, Washington was 0-for-10 towards New York.

Did teaching the Capitals give Laviolette perception on how to stifle their energy play, together with Ovechkin?

“I guess a little bit because you know the personnel. But that’s not how we went about our business,” the coach mentioned after Game 1. “We do it more based on video and teaching and showing. I imagine that’s how most teams operate. You take a look at what you’re going to be up against, you get some video clips, you bring it into a meeting, you try to talk about a game plan on what you want to do and go from there.

“I do know the place Ovi’s going to stand. I do know he would possibly transfer round slightly bit, however I feel everyone else does too. It’s extra about what they’re trying to do on the market.”


BOTH THE CAPITALS and their former coach have downplayed the insights they carry into the series against each other — or really any semblance of extra motivation for one to eliminate the other.

“No matter who we play, we’re going to have a pre-scout on them. Not actually unusual in any respect. We’ll simply put together like we might anyone else,” Oshie said.

“It’s a enterprise. We’re all right here for a enterprise,” Ovechkin said.

“The Rangers have had a really, excellent season, and he’s an ideal coach,” Strome said. “With the approach they play, we performed that approach final 12 months. I feel slightly familiarity by no means hurts. But he has that with us as nicely. We’ll see the way it performs out, however I do know we’re all excited.”

Before the collection, Laviolette mentioned he “didn’t think about it much, to be honest with you” when requested about going through Washington in the playoffs after having coached them final season.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for the Capitals and the organization, their players,” he mentioned. “They’ve obviously done some good things to make the playoffs. Our group’s done some good things to make the playoffs. The game gets decided out on the ice.”

Then once more, going through a former employer is previous hat for Laviolette at this level in his profession.

“I’ve coached a lot of teams,” he mentioned with fun, as the Rangers are his sixth NHL head-coaching cease.

“If this is the story, I’ll have a story every round, I hope.”



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