Last season the Washington Capitals did everything short of winning the Stanley Cup. They won the President’s Trophy, had arguably one of the best goaltenders in the league and one of the toughest teams to play against throughout the season. With some minor tweaks in the offseason how will the Capitals do in 2017?
Last season the Washington Capitals looked to be the team to win it all. They dominated the regular season, had one of the most prolific goal scorers in the game and the eventual Vezina Trophy winning goalie, but were bounced by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the playoffs. General Manager Brian MacLellan made a slight offseason tweak to the lineup, but thinks that for the most part the lineup the team currently has can achieve the ultimate goal and capture the franchise’s first Stanley Cup Championship.
The Washington Capitals had one of the most lethal offenses’ in the league last season and that won’t change next season. In 2016 the Capitals’ offense was led by 24 year old Evgeny Kuznetsov who tallied 77 points in 82 games consisting of 20 goals and 57 assists. In 2015 Kuznetsov had only recorded a career high of 37 points before exploding in 2016. With one year remaining on his current contract he could be asking for quite the raise if he can produce the same results in this upcoming season.
The Capitals also have one of the most prolific scorers in the game with Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin, otherwise known as the “Great 8” has been with Washington since being drafted 1st overall in 2004 and in that time has not only become one of the greatest goal scorers of this generation, but accomplished the feat of the becoming the greatest Russian goal scorer of all time last season. In his 839 NHL games Ovechkin has amassed 966 points consisting of 525 goals and 441 points. The elite Russian is on pace to break the 1000 point mark this season and could also record his 8th 50 goal season who only trails Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy, two legends who managed to hit the 50 goal mark 9 times in their careers.
The Capitals offense is further spread out through players such as T.J Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky. Backstrom has been the player who has spent most of his career with Ovechkin and is one of the best playmakers in the game. In 652 games Backstrom is almost a point-per-game player with 642 points consisting of 165 goals and 477 assists. He has recorded at least 70 points in each of his last 3 seasons and will undoubtedly be one of the team’s leading scorers in 2017.
General manager Brian MacLellan brought in two new faces to the Capitals offense in Lars Eller and Brett Connolly. Eller had previously spent the majority of his career with the Montreal Canadiens and should fit in nicely on the Capitals’ third line. Last season Eller tallied 26 points in 79 games and should be producing in between the 10-15 goal range. Connolly on the other hand is more of a potential project. Drafted 6th overall in 2010 by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Connolly has had trouble living up to his high draft pick status. He has bounced between playing in the AHL and NHL and most recently played the last two seasons with the Boston Bruins. In 2016 Connolly registered 25 points in 71 games and with a 1 year contract this upcoming season this may be his last chance to prove he belongs in the NHL.
Washington’s defense is pretty spectacular as well. Last season the team ranked 2nd in least goals allowed with 193, only 1 goal behind the Anaheim Ducks. The defense also can chip in on offense too. Last season four of the regular six defensemen recorded at least 20 points. Defensive scoring was led by 26 year old John Carlson who gathered 39 points in 56 games. With the success of the team’s backend last season not many changes were and will continue to roll with John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Oripik, Karl Alzner, Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt.
Lastly one of the Capitals greatest strengths last season will likely again be a domineering force in net. Braden Holtby not only tied records in 2016, but also took home the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender. Last season Braden Holtby gathered a record of 48-9-5 with a GAA of 2.20 and save percentage of .922%. Holtby had such a good season that he tied the regular season record for most wins with the legendary Martin Brodeur. If last season was any indication of how Holtby will do in 2017 then the Capitals are set in net for a long, long time.
PREDICTION: The Washington Capitals made only minor tweaks to an already dynamic lineup and I predict they will be battling for the Metropolitan Division again along with the Presidents Trophy.