September 13, 2013 by Cups n Pucks
The Washington Capitals are one team that did very little to improve its line up other than add Mikhail Grabovski. The team has plenty of upside but they have not been able to put it together the past few seasons. With a average defensive unit but goaltending depth, they should make a run at the playoffs; just how far they go remains to be seen. They don’t have the crutch of a weak division anymore. The Capitals finish 18th on our NHL Season Countdown.
The off season was relatively boring if you are a Capitals’ fan. General manager George McPhee signed free agent Mikhail Grabovski, resigned John Carlson and Karl Alzner to long term contracts and is currently negotiating with Marcus Johansson on a new contract (he is a restricted free agent, meaning no one can sign him with out giving up some sort of compensation to the Capitals). This may be one team that should have been more active this off season as they lost Mike Ribeiro, Matt Hendricks and Joey Crabb to free agency and bought out Jeff Schultz. It remains to be seen how this season will go but there is no doubt that the talent level is there.
The Capitals drafted Austria native Andre Burakovsky with the 23rd overall pick in the 2013 Entry Draft. Burskovsky is a sniper playing for Malmo in the Allsvenskan league (Sweden’s second league). While he loves scoring and has a rocket of a shot, Burskovsky needs to work on his north-south game if he wants to make any noise at the NHL level.
This offensive unit has no problem scoring goals, as they averaged 3.04 goals a game and lead the league when it came to the power play, operating at a stunning 26.8%. The offense is lead by none other than Alex Ovechkin. He scored 32 goals and dominated games like he used to during the month of April. His line mate, Nicklas Backstrom has been Ovechkin’s center, recording 40 assists and a point per game last season. The offense doesn’t stop there, Marcus Johansson will look to add to his 22 point season as he enters his fourth NHL season at the age of 22.
The forwards are deep for the Capitals, as the second line could consist of Martin Erat, Mikhail Grabovski and Troy Brouwer. All of these players are more than capable and should all score around 15-20 goals. Joel Ward, Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr and Jason Chimera are all great 3rd and 4th liners that should contribute as well. Also expect 2012 first round pick Tom Wilson (16th overall) to get a long, hard look as a third line winger.
An area that needed the most improvement in the playoffs saw nothing added over the offseason. The Washington Capitals have an average defensive unit. Karl Alzner, Mike Green, Dmitry Orlov and John Carlson all return to the line up this season. They will look to improve on the team 2.71 goals against average.
This unit will need to be better in their own zone. The top four of the Capitals is still very young and learning from veteran Mike Green They are already very good in the offensive zone so cleaning up their own end can make this team a contender to make the playoffs and even go deep. However, if the defense is as inconsistent as they have been over the last couple of season, it could spell disaster in their new, more difficult division.
The depth at the goaltender position is deep as either goalie can play well as the number one guy. Braden Holtby is clearly the number one guy as he played very well last season registering a .920 save percentage and 2.58 goals against average. Michal Neuvirth is a more than capable back up and could be a starter on some teams. He can come in and play well in long stretches should Holtby go down due to injury. Don’t be surprised if you see the Capitals ride the hot hand this season, similar to what the Chicago Blackhawks did this past season.
This team has plenty of talent but, it remains to be seen if they can put together a promising season that lasts past the second round of the playoffs. There should be no reason this team isn’t in the playoffs in the Eastern conference, but inconsistency has caused them to nearly miss the playoffs the last two season. In a strong division, the Capitals might have fallen short. Look for the Caps to make a run at the playoffs and possibly deep into the playoffs if everyone is playing their A-game.