In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2019-2020 standings. I will first note some ongoing trends that are happening in the league. Goals scored per game went up for the fourth consecutive season (at 3.01 goals per game last year), shots against finally dipped last season to 31.3 per game after increasing for four consecutive seasons previously. It’s clear the league’s push towards offense is yielding its intended effect.
Twenty-eighth up are the Washington Capitals who are in their 45th year as a franchise. This team won their first Stanley Cup in 2017-2018 season and has now made the playoffs in 11 of the last 12 seasons. Fun fact, when they started in 1974, this team did not make the playoffs in their first eight straight seasons.
2018 – 2019 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 4th
- Goals for Rank: 5th
- Goals against Rank: 17th
- PP Rank: 12th
- PK Rank: 24th
Projected 2019-2020 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 4th
- Eastern Conference Standings: 3rd
- Metropolitan Division Standings: 1st
- Coach: Todd Reirden (second season with the Capitals; 46-26-8 regular season; 3-4 playoffs)
On offense, the last time Washington was not a top ten offense, the show Duck Dynasty was in its second season and becoming a nationwide hit. There is a bit of a divide between the top six of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, Jakub Vrana, Evgeny Kuznetsov and TJ Oshie vs. the bottom six but regardless this is still a lethal offense. If there was an area of concern among the aforementioned six players one is suspended (drug suspicions) and three of them are 31 or older. The way this offense rolls I think it’s going to be great until it isn’t and when that day hits, I think there is a precipitous fall. In the meanwhile 50 goals from Ovechkin, 25 goals from Oshie, Vrana and Backstrom and a handful of 60+ point player should be expected.
Defensively, this team allowed the 15th most shots against and the 17th most goals against last season. There was a shift from a team who typically allows few shots as their defense has morphed. The addition of Radko should help John Carlson limit this after a physical presence. Dmitry Orlov and Michal Kempny don’t shy away from blocking a shot providing some stable positional defense as well. This defense has never been flashy but it is very reliable which is an important trait to have.
In net, Braden Holtby had 32 wins across 59 games sporting a 2.82 GAA (26th in NHL) and a .911 SV% (28th in NHL). Braden has been one of the more consistent goalies over the years and while his numbers have dipped a bit the last two years I still see him being an average goalie for the Capitals this year. There could continue to be a trend of Pheonix Copley taking a few starts from him. Last season was split about 70/30 between the two and I could see Copley taking more like 35% of the stats this season.
Behind the bench, Todd Reirden stepped in after one of the more odd coaching situations I’ve seen with Barry Trotz leaving after his Stanley Cup victory and Todd stepping in as his first NHL head coach gig after stints as Pittsburgh Penguins assistant and Houston Aeros NHL. It’s hard to begrudge his first season where he led Washington to a 1st place finish in a loaded Metropolitan division and then lost in game seven to a Carolina Hurricanes team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Fun side fact – if you follow the Eastern Conference path through the playoffs last year, the Bruins vs. Blue Jackets series is the only matchup that wasn’t a sweep or seven game series
- Radko Gudas
- Brett Connolly
- Matt Niskanen
Prospects and Picks
Ilya Samsonov – I highlight this prospect as I think the Capitals will be in need of a new franchise goalie within the next 3 seasons. Taken 22nd overall in the 2015 draft, he joins just Jake Oettinger (26th overall, 2017) and Spencer Knight (13th overall, 2019) as the only three goalies taken in the first round of the NHL in the last five years. After a number of years in the KHL posting GAA in the low 2’s with a save percentage .920+. Last year with Hershey Bears he saw his numbers dip a bit but he pulled off 20 wins in 27 games and he increased his play in the playoffs.
Sleeper Fantasy Asset
Tom Wilson – I highlight this with an asterisk of *pending no suspension* Tom has a chance at serious top line minutes with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom as well as top power play time. His shooting percentage of 16.9% will go down which means his goals might not be 22 but he will see his assist total of 18 rise and he should eclipse 55 points this season while also providing PIM, hits, and some power play points.
Cap Situation: (per CapFriendly)
$82.9MM Spent; $0 in Cap room; 23 players signed.