Washington Capitals Set to Take Hold of Eastern Conference

The Washington Capitals have not been past the second round of the playoffs since 1998 when the made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Captain and “The Great Eight” Alexander Ovechkin has never been able to carry his team to that point. That all might change this upcoming season.

Like many teams this summer, the Washington Capitals looked to fill in the roster holes and find those missing pieces. The two biggest players the team acquired were T.J. Oshie in exchange for Troy Brouwer and three-time Stanley Cup Champion Justin Williams. Not only that, but the Capitals also locked up goaltender Braden Holtby for the next five years.

So let’s break it down a bit.

Anchoring their team in the backend is Holtby. He really surprised me this season; he finally came into his own and developed into a goaltender that can handle the pressure of the postseason. Holtby just had this aura of calmness about him that he carried into the playoffs. He never looked rattled and was able to come up with big saves when needed.

Of course, he still needs to continue to improve as the seasons go on. He is only 25 years old, That is a major plus for the Capitals because other teams that will be fighting for the top spot in the Conference will be working with goaltenders north of 30 years old (the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins). His youth could work in their favor.

Leading their offense the Capitals have Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson.

“Alex Ovechkin The forward has scored at least 32 goals in each of his 10 NHL seasons, and with 53 last season became the sixth player in NHL history to have at least six 50-goal seasons.” [NBC Sports]

I can’t say much about Ovechkin that hasn’t already been said. He is one of the world’s best players. Not many people can hit the corners like he can and the power behind his shot is unbelievable. What he needs now is to find a way to make it to the Conference Finals.

If you look at the names listed above, you have to admit that the Capitals have a deep offense. They have players with extensive playoff experience; young and hungry players; and players who have something to prove. They are all highly skilled and are ready to finally make it over the playoff hump.

Their defense is also pretty stacked. The team’s top guns, John Carlson and Karl Alzner are both in their prime. They also have Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen rounding out the top four. OK, so they might need a little more depth on defense to ensure these top four don’t get overused. 

The two that are the leading candidates for the third defensive pairing are Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov. And it is also worth mentioning that the team has top defensive prospects Madison Bowey and Connor Carrick who will be looking to make the roster this fall.

The Capitals look really good on paper. They have the arsenal to conduct a full-on assault on other Eastern Conference teams. But their biggest challenge will be translating all that talent into wins and making it past the second round of the playoffs.

Can they do it? Or will we once again see the same-old Capitals?