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(The 2015-16 NHL season is nearly upon us! Why bother watching this team? What will make or break the season? Find out as we preview all 30 teams as camps begin!)
45-26-11, 101 points. Second in the Metro Division.
2014-15 Season, In One Tweet
Did They Get Better, Worse Or Are They About The Same?
Better. With due respect to the work that Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer did for the Caps, the acquisitions of Justin “Mr. Game 7” Williams and T.J. “Never Played a Game 7” Oshie make this a better team. And while they’ll miss the puck moving prowess of Mike Green, they weren’t going to hand him another $6 million cap hit over three years.
In fact, that this Capitals blue line can handle the loss of Green is a testament to how effective this group was last season. John Carlson (55 points), Matt Niskanen (31 points), Karl Alzner (always steady) and Brooks Orpik (c’mon, he was much better than any of us thought he would be) anchor the group; Dmitry Orlov is on the cusp of being mighty effective, too.
Five Most Fascinating Players
1. Alex Ovechkin, LW
Ovechkin cracked 50 goals for the second straight season, and led the league in goals for the third straight year. Hell, he even had five goals in 14 playoff games, to help dispel that myth. Up next for the greatest goals-scorer of his generation? Netting No. 500, as he’s 25 goals away.
2. Braden Holtby, G
Holtby faced more shots (2,044) and played more games (73) than any other goalie in the NHL last season, and still posted a career-best .923 save percentage and a 2.22 GAA. He followed that with an outstanding playoff run (13 games, .944 save percentage 1.71 GAA). He’s 25 and the owner of a fat new contract; how much better can he play?
3. Nicklas Backstrom, C
Off-season hip surgery might delay the start of his season; but when he’s ready, Backstrom will be defending his NHL assist title (60), the fourth time in his career he’s hit 60 assists. One of the best two-way centers in hockey; does he get Selke love this year?
4. T.J. Oshie, RW
The best numbers Oshie’s posted in the NHL: 21 goals and 39 assists in 2013-14. He said he feels like “a kid in a candy shop” playing with Backstrom and Ovechkin; let’s see what kind of sugar rush he’s feeling after riding shotgun for them.
5. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C
Having completed his first full season in the NHL, the Russian sensation is likely the team’s second-line center this season. Why is he fascinating? Because he can do this, and usually players can only do this if you know the right button combination on your Xbox controller.
Potentially The Best Thing About This Team
The power play, obviously. They’re led the league in converting with the man advantage for the last three seasons, tying with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the top spot in 2014-15. Ovechkin has scored 65 power-play goals in the last three seasons, which is Brett-Hull-in-his-prime good.
Potentially The Worst Thing About This Team
The penalty kill was middle of the pack (15th, 81.2 percent) last season, and three of the team’s top six penalty-killing forwards left via free agency. Oshie killed penalties with the Blues, but Williams did not with the Kings. Brooks Laich, Jay Beagle and Jason Chimera will likely lead this unit.
Dream 3-on-3 OT Group
Ovechkin, Backstrom and Carlson. The two best offensive players, with years of chemistry, playing with the team’s top playmaking defenseman. Plus, Backstom and Carlson can cover the other end of the ice while Ovechkin cherry-picks, UM, we mean “prepares for a breakout.”
Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scorching hot)
Three. Coach Barry Trotz has this team pointed in the right direction, and solved many of the issues that the Capitals had under Adam Oates. One assumes he’ll be in Washington for at least the next two seasons, but expectations are expectations – the longer Ovechkin goes never having played for a Stanley Cup, the more heat on the coach.
Awkward Old School Video Break
Did you know the Capitals are more than a team? We still feel bad for the players who were so dumb they were reduced to “background clappers.”
Their Best Case Scenario Is …
The Capitals win the Stanley Cup. They’ve looked great on paper before, but this team seemingly has the right combination of potent scoring, solid goaltending, smart coaching and veteran savvy that makes for a champion. Oh, and a guy who turns into Gretzky whenever there’s a Game 7.
Their Nightmare Scenario Is …
Holtby is injured, Oshie is a bust, the team’s bottom six don’t click and the Capitals find themselves on the outside of an Eastern Conference playoff bubble.
First in the Metro Division, and a legit challenger for the Stanley Cup. And while “Capitals” and “predicting playoff success” are usually mutually exclusive, the addition of Williams and the stout play of Holtby have us thinking this could be the year. Maybe. Possibly. Potentially.