Archive for Washington Capitals
Last year: 45-26-11, second in the Metro Division. Eliminated by the Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Key additions: Justin Williams, TJ Oshie
Key subtractions: Mike Green, Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, Tim Gleason
Offense: The Capitals usually high-flying offense added shootout guru Oshie and Mr. Game Seven Williams this summer, giving Washington the most talent up front its had during the Ovechkin era. The two veterans will give coach Barry Trotz all kinds of options, but the biggest reason for excitement is the continued growth of forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky. Kuznetsov seized control of the No. 2 center role as the season progressed and looks poised to become an opposing coach’s nightmare after focusing matchups on Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. 20-year-old Burakovsky demonstrated flashes of his explosiveness against the Blueshirts in the playoffs, and has the luxury of being brought along slowly thanks to Washington’s impressive depth. The Capitals did lose 59 goals with the departures of mainstays Brouwer, Ward and Fehr, but Washington shouldn’t have any difficulty replacing that production with increased roles for younger players and the aforementioned Oshie and Williams. And don’t forget about 2014 first-round pick Jakub Vrana, who could hit the ground in the NHL with two feet running.
Last year: 38-30-14, fifth in the Metro Division. Missed the postseason by three points.
Key additions: Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Justin Peters
Franchise direction: Like the rival Penguins, Washington chose to make major changes in the front office over overhauling its roster. In for George McPhee is Brian MacLellan as General Manager while long-time Predators coach Barry Trotz replaces Adam Oates behind the bench. Trotz is one of the most respected men in the business, but he’s made his living as a defensive-minded coach and faces an entirely new challenge in the nation’s capital. Trotz was surely part of the inspiration for the team’s two big signings, Niskanen and Orpik. The Capitals needed a major upgrade on defense after finishing 21st in goals against, but lobbing $67.75 million at Niskanen and Orpik was a bit excessive, especially in Orpik’s case. The acquisitions certainly don’t say much for the team’s faith in its long-time top-three of John Carlson, Karl Alzner and Mike Green. Focusing on bringing in defensemen from outside the organization does make some sense given that Washington has several talented forward coming up through the organization.
On Monday, Dave pointed out that though things have seemed a little hairy lately, the team’s playoff chances were still at 94.4% according to SportsClubStats. Those odds improved to 97.9% after New York beat Phoenix in overtime and Philadelphia lost in regulation to Los Angeles on Monday night, and St. Louis beat Toronto, the Capitals lost to the Kings in a shootout and the Blue Jackets beat the Red Wings on Tuesday.
In other words, barring a monumental collapse, the Rangers will be in the postseason. Of course, we’re still inclined to worry about the supposed 2.1% chance that does happen, so I figured we ought to check in on the teams that could ruin New York’s spring.
If you thought the Rangers had a bad start to the year, then what would you say about the Flyers, who fired their coach after just three games? But the Flyers have really been among the league’s better teams for several months. Claude Giroux leads the way for Philly, averaging over a point per game, but the Flyers also have six other players with 15+ goals on the year. As always, Philly has a high-powered offense, but – and this won’t surprise you – the Flyers’ Achilles heel is their goaltending and team defense. Steve Mason and Ray Emery have combined to give up an average over 2.8 goals per game. Philadelphia will visit the Blueshirts tonight in a game with huge implications, and the Flyers still have tough games left against Boston (twice), St. Louis and Pittsburgh.
Points: 83 Games remaining: 11 Home/road split: 5/6