LANDOVER, Md. -- Amnesia might be the best strategy for the Washington Capitals heading into the 1990 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Capitals have more than their share of past playoff miseries to forget. While Washington has qualified for postseason competition for the eighth straight season -- the longest stretch for any Patrick Division club -- the team has become one of the NHL's most notorious playoff underachievers, winning just three of nine playoff series and never advancing past the second round.
'Personally, I've got a bad memory and I think that's good when it comes to our playoffs so far,' Washington defenseman Scott Stevens said Monday. 'I'll remember it when we do something good.'
'I never think about the past,' Stevens added. 'I think about the future. If we're going to think about the past, we might as well forget it. I'm thinking about going as far as we can and winning the Stanley Cup.'
The Capitals, whose 36-38-6 finish marked their first losing season since the 1981-82 season, ended in third place in the division and face the second-place New Jersey Devils in a best-of-seven opening round series starting Thursday in East Rutherford, N.J.
This marks the first postseason for new Capitals Coach Terry Murray, who replaced his brother Bryan as coach midway through this season. Terry Murray is well versed in Washington's past failings.
'You put pressure on yourself. You want to do well and you want to win in the playoffs,' he said Monday.
The Capitals won the regular season series between the teams 4-3, but the Devils won three of the past four games. In addition, the Devils won the only postseason series between the teams, knocking the Capitals off by winning Game 7 in the Capitals Centre in a second-round series in 1988.
Last season, the Capitals secured their first-ever Patrick Division title, but were summarily dismissed in the first round by the fourth-place Philadelphia Flyers. This season, Washington was inconsistent throughout, but has the advantage of featuring one of the NHL's top goalies in Mike Liut.
Liut, acquired in a trade with the Hartford Whalers last month, was tied for first place in the NHL in goals-against average (2.53 goals per game, matching the average of Montreal's Patrick Roy). Liut also was second in the league in save percentage, trailing only Roy.
The Capitals believe they have never had adequate goaltending in the playoffs -- until this season.
'There's no question that Mike Liut is a guy who's very capable of going out and playing very well night after night,' Murray said.
'You don't necessarily want to ask a goaltender to go out and perform miracles or anything like that for you. But you certainly ask him to go out and stop the routine shots on a regular basis and if that happens you're going to make the big stops, also.'
Liut posted a 4-4 record with the Capitals since the trade. Backup Don Beaupre posted a 3-0-2 record since Washington acquired Liut and is 6-1-2 in his past nine outings.
Stevens, the key figure on Washington's solid defense, missed the final three games of the regular season with a sprained shoulder but expects to play Thursday.
'It's getting better slowly and I've got two or three more days,' Stevens said. 'But I've got to be honest -- it's not going to be 100 percent in that short a period of time. Hopefully it will be better enough so I can take hits.'
Washington must solve its power-play woes if it hopes to do anything in the playoffs. The Capitals ranks 19th out of the NHL's 21 teams in power-play scoring, registering goals on just 17 percent of their power-play chances.