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2018-2019 NHL Preview: Washington Capitals

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Fresh off the Franchises first Stanley Cup

2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2017-2018 standings. Nineteenth up are the Washington Capitals who are in their 44th season in the NHL. Fresh off their ninth playoff appearance in ten seasons (none of which saw them advance past the conference semi-finals) they won the first Stanley Cup in franchise history beating the Las Vegas Golden Knights in 5 games.

2017 – 2018 NHL Stats:

NHL Standings: 6th
Goals for Rank: 9th
Goals against Rank: 15th
PP Rank: 7th
PK Rank: 15th

Projected 2018-2019 NHL Stats

NHL Standings: 13th
Eastern Conference Standings: 7th
Metropolitan Division Standings: 4th
Coach: Todd Reirden (first year as a head coach; previously an assistant with Pittsburgh)

Overview:

Justifiably I could see fans being obstinate about ranking the Stanley Cup Champions 13th. Let me say that the Penguins were 10th in the regular season this past year and the LA Kings missed the playoffs after their 2014 win. I think the Capitals are much more like the Penguins of this year, in that I think they will let up on the accelerate a bit in anticipation of the playoffs. The Capitals of old who dominate in the regular season only to lose in the first two rounds has passed, a new team who can temper better play in the final months of the regular season and into the playoffs has arrived. In addition to the aforementioned, in the Metropolitan division, the difference between the second team (Pittsburgh) and the fifth team (New Jersey) was 3 points. 3. Points. They will continue to have a phenomenal offense, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, TJ Oshie, Andre Burakovsky, Lars Eller, the list goes on and on. Defensively, the Capitals have always thrived on stay at home defenders like John Carlson, Dimitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen who can smother opposing offenses. This team is one of the older teams in the NHL and as such may rest a few players (or suffer some injuries) throughout the year. Braden Holtby is a top 3 goalie in net (2nd fastest goalie to reach 200 wins behind Ken Dryden), last year didn’t reflect that with a 2.99 GAA (38th in NHL) and .907 sv % (37th in NHL). It didn’t matter as Philipp Grubauer was a top 10 goalie filling in for a third of the seasons games but this year, they don’t have that to fall back on if Braden starts off the year cold. Finally, I am a big Barry Trotz fan (especially in the regular season), I think the departure of him and subsequent arrival of Todd Reirden could deter them a few games knocking them down the standings.

Major Additions:

None.

Major Subtractions:

Jay Beagle, Phillip Grubauer

Prospects and Picks:

-Shane Gersich. Taken 134th overall in the 2014 draft, Shane spent the last 3 seasons at the University of North Dakota where he amassed 77 points and 43 goals across 117 games over 3 years. He was able to start for three games with the Capitals where he scored one assist as well. He has quick legs and shifty moves to go with strong hands, he needs to get some size to his frame to hold himself better in the pros. Depending on how well his summer camp goes, he could make the team but more likely he will play in the AHL for the Hershey Bears.

-Ilya Samsonov. Recent standout in the prospect game where he had a shutout, Ilya was the 22nd overall pick in the 2015 draft. He has spent the last four years in the KHL posting sub 2.5 GAA and a save percentage over .920 each year. He will be given the chance to backfill Phillip Grubauers spots and become the backup on this team in somewhat quick fashion (some goalies wait 5+ years to get this chance). He has certainly shown the skill in net to compete for this position.

Sleeper Fantasy Asset:

-TJ Oshie. He largely underperformed in the regular season last year. It was his first sub 50 point season in five years and his first sub 20 goal season in three years. I think on that top power play unit with Backstrom, Ovechkin and Kuznetsov, TJ not only eclipses 20 power play points but brings his goals into the mid 20’s and his point production into the high 50’s again as he works to shoot the puck more next year.

Cap Situation:

$63MM Spent; $12M in Cap room; 14 players signed; average team age 28.

Poll

The Capitals had three players with 70+pts last year, will they have four this year?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    Yes, four players with 70+ points
    (42 votes)
  • 22%
    No, three or fewer players with 70+ points
    (12 votes)
54 votes total Vote Now