Washington Capitals Season Previewby Liz Pendergraft October 8, 2021 0 comments
It appears the Washington Capitals are in it to win it. They didn’t do much during the off-season and didn’t make any crazy changes with their core players, which is understandable. However, they haven’t been able to get out of the first round of the playoffs. Before winning the Stanley Cup with Barry Trotz, it seemed they were stuck in the glorious space known as the second round.
Maybe it means something; maybe it doesn’t.
There are always questions about the age of the leading players. Can they still produce? Are they running out of time to win? All fans need to see is that Alex Ovechkin is still performing, despite being 35 years old last season, with 24 goals and 42 points in 45 games this past season. However, it seems that it’s not a concern at the moment for Washington’s front office. They made minor additions and subtractions, but nothing to write home about. They believe they are a contender for the cup, and the moves they made reflect that belief. There’s still plenty to be excited about as we near opening night, and fans can’t wait for the season to start.
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There’s no question the Capitals are outstanding on offense. Alongside Ovechkin, there are many forwards who can perform at a high level, such as Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, and even the one and only Tom Wilson. The top six have been solid, and the bottom six have been reliable, showing that they have the depth needed to roll through the season and into the playoffs.
Last season, the Capitals were 17th in goals against. John Carlson is Washington’s best defenseman, and let’s not forget Dmitry Orlov, who’s been their number two defender. They are going to need both of them to step up more, but they also need to expect more from the rest of their defensemen. Nick Jensen, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Justin Schultz, and Michal Kempny are decent, average players who are not quite as good or consistent a Carlson. Overall their defense is average, with one player being the driving force at the moment. So if the Capitals have plans to go further in the postseason, average will not cut it.
The Capitals took a chance on Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek last season after Henrik Lundqvist was unable to play. With the retirement of Lundqvist, they are now the duo set to backstop Washington. Vanecek is more consistent, but Samsonov is the higher-touted player. It’s possible we’ll see who’s more consistent in their play over the first few games they play, and then the Capitals might roll with that goalie. These two were good enough to get Washington into the playoffs, but there are questions about whether they can help the team get further than just the first round.
Stating the obvious here, but he needs to be the player fans still think he is. He was looking pretty good in the shortened 2020-21 season, and he will need to continue being who he is: goalscorer supreme.
He’s good at driving the play on both sides of the puck, and his numbers slipped just slightly this past season, which seemed to knock him out of contention for the Norris Trophy. Carlson will have to continue his high level of play, and he needs to improve his play at even strength. If he is able to push himself to a higher level and improve his possession rate in the playoffs, there’s a good chance he will be a contributing factor to making it back to the Stanley Cup final.
There are a lot of questions surrounding his ability to be the goalie the Capitals need him to be. His performance in the playoffs, while not that great, exposed his lack of experience. However, one could make a case for his average performance after ending up on NHL’s COVID list twice. Consistency will be the key for him if he wants to be the number one going forward.
Biggest Question Facing the Capitals
Will they be able to win another Stanley Cup before the central core of players gets too old? If they can’t get past the first round, then the answer will obviously be no. They have a few years to accomplish this goal, but there’s no time like the present. Especially with the way injuries can derail a team at any given time, they have to focus on winning now.
The Capitals will make it into the playoffs again. However, getting out of the first round will take a considerable amount of exceptional playing from everyone on the team. Washington continues to prove their worth each season, but it never comes to fruition. Perhaps this year is finally their time to bring it home again.
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