2013-14 NHL Season Preview: Washington Capitals


Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals

The Washington Capitals enter the 2013 season, their second under head coach Adam Oates, as one of the favorites in the Metropolitan Division, despite the loss of Mike Ribeiro up front, and Jeff Schultz back on the blue line. The addition of Mikhail Grabovski gives the team another 20 goal scorer and 50 point producer to help increase depth up front. But does the team have what it takes to finally make that charge at the Stanley Cup?

Offense: The Washington Capitals will once again be lead by the combination of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom up front. Ovechkin proved the skeptics wrong once again as he tallied 32 goals in 48 games played during the lockout shortened season. His center, Backstrom, grabbed 40 assists, including 15 on the power play, to boost that first line production. No matter who plays alongside these two, they are the top threat in Washington.

The good news is that its not just about those two in Washington. Marcus Johansson has finally began to blossom into the player many expected he would become. He should continue to improve this season and mold even further into a strong threat up front. Johansson, along with Grabovski and Troy Brouwer, make another trio that will put a number of points on the board for the Capitals this season.

A huge bonus for the Capitals this season will be a healthy Brooks Laich. After managing only 9 games last season, Laich will look to step in and contribute a 20 goal season of his own. Additionally, you can expect more out of Martin Erat as he grows more comfortable in a Caps jersey after he became a deadline acquisition last spring.

Defense: On the blue line, the Capitals will once again be lead by former Norris Trophy nominee Mike Green. Under the tutelage of Oates, Green will be finding himself on the scoresheet quite a bit – just as he was during 2008 and 2009. Green will help to captain the top power play unit, and should contribute nicely on special teams.

The back end will also have John Carlson and Karl Alzner, two young defenseman who continue to impress and improve their games. John Erskine adds a bit of veteran depth to the Washington blue line, while Jack Hillen and Steve Oleksy round things out. This unit requires a bit of polishing, but they have continued to improve over the past few years and we expect the same to continue in 2013-14.

Goaltending: Braden Holtby solidified himself as the starter between the pipes in Washington last season. He outplayed Michal Neuvirth and earned himself the majority of the starts. Providing his strong play continues, Holtby will remain the starter throughout the upcoming season. But considering Washington has Neuvirth as a backup, we woudn’t be surprised to see a bit of a battle at times this year with Neuvirth earning himself a few strings of consecutive starts.

The goaltending tandem, regardless of who is hot at the moment and starts, is a fully capable one and proved last season that they can help lead the team to a division title. The competition will be fierce in the Metropolitan Division, but Holtby and Neuvirth should hold their own.

HWB Prediction: The Capitals should have no trouble scoring goals this season, but their real test will once again be in the playoffs. Under the guidance of Adam Oates, management and fans alike hope that the new style of play will help lead them deep into the playoffs. Unfortunately, there is a lot of good competition in the Eastern Conference this season and that will make their road to the cup a bit more difficult.

While this team is certainly skilled, this will not be their year. Their is still too much skill on other teams in the East and not enough depth for the Capitals to take a team to the Stanley Cup Finals. Expect the Capitals to make it to the playoffs, but get bounced in the first or second round as they have in many recent years.

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