The Washington Capitals are ready to defend their Stanley Cup, but they have some competition. What can every contender learn from them?
As training camps started up again on Friday, one of the more upbeat groups seemed to be in our nation’s capital, as the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals looked excited and prepared to defend that title.
Like with every championship team, there are lessons to be learned as far as what worked and what did not during the cup run. With most of the group returning from the playoffs, the Capitals themselves are probably still mindful of those lessons.
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But what about the other contenders for the Stanley Cup? All of them fell short of their ultimate goal last season, and it is very possible that they are now looking at the 2017-18 Washington Capitals as their guide for how to get over the hump.
No two teams are exactly the same, which means no two teams would take the same exact lessons from the Capitals. Instead, these squads could be looking for tips with regards to roster construction, system, or even intangibles.
Take these same Washington Capitals, for instance. Everybody knows how they struggled to get over the hump for over a decade, including two painful losses to the rival Pittsburgh Penguins in the years preceding their championship season.
During those two seasons, the Capitals frequently dominated play offensively and were one of the best teams in the league in shot attempts percentage. In the playoffs, however, their flaws were exposed by a faster Penguins team that took advantage of better-quality chances.
Last season, the Capitals took a page out of the Penguins’ template, clogging up the neutral zone to create chances on the counter-attack. While this meant fewer chances overall than their previous two years, they were frequently odd-man rushes or other high-quality opportunities.
This article will consider what each legitimate Stanley Cup contender for the 2018-19 season can learn from the 2017-18 Washington Capitals in order to improve their chances of winning it all this season. As mentioned, these lessons will vary from team-to-team.
Before going through each team in depth, here are the teams that are just a step below being true contenders in my eyes:
- Boston Bruins: The B’s have unfortunately failed to improve over the offseason, and they were not good enough last year to make up for that. Other teams in the division and league have passed them by.
- St. Louis Blues: The Blues had one of the best offseasons of any team in the NHL, but considering that they missed the playoffs last year, it is too early to name them contenders. They could be a surprise, however.
- Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers have a very good offense and a talented young defense. They lack an elite difference-maker outside of Claude Giroux, however, and their goaltending is horrendous on paper.
In alphabetical order, here is one lesson every true contender can learn from the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.