The Washington Capitals had a very solid regular season but were disappointing to say the least when it came playoff time. The Caps 41-20-8 record put them in first place among Metropolitan Division teams earning them an automatic playoff bid at the end of the season. Despite this, they lost to the New York Islanders in five games in the first round of the playoffs. Our Washington Capitals Preview 2021 looks at how the club is expected to rebound in the upcoming season.
The Capitals finished the 2019-2020 season tied for the third most goals in the NHL. Alex Ovechkin finished tied for the league lead at the end of the regular season with 48 tallies. Had the regular season been completed, Ovi likely would have had his ninth 50-goal season. His 67 assists were the most of any Capitals forward. There is little reason to believe that the Russian sniper is close to slowing down and should be expected to be one of the league’s elite scorers once again in 2021.
Along with Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and TJ Oshie will be major offensive contributors. Backstrom and Kuznetsov give Washington two elite centermen. Backstrom finished last year with 54 points while Kuznetsov had 52. Oshie finished second on the Capitals with 26 goals last season.
One Capital who flew under the radar last season was Jakub Vrana. Vrana socred at a 0.75 point per game pace and recorded the highest point total of his four-year career. The Czech winger finished last season with 25 goals and 27 assists. He will significantly factor into the Caps offense once again in 2021.
Washington Capitals Preview 2021 – Defense
John Carlson had the best season of his career finishing second in Norris Trophy voting. Carlson had 75 points including 15 goals last year. His point total was the most among all NHL defensemen while his 15 goals ranked tied for fourth. Carlson has developed into an elite defenseman and gives Washington a bonafide number one D-man.
Dmitry Orlov as well as the newly acquired Justin Schultz and Zdeno Chara will also eat plenty of minutes for Washington. Last season Orlov had 27 points while playing over 22 minutes per game. He was the Caps second best defenseman behind Carlson. Schultz and Chara were both signed over the offseason. The former played in 46 games for Pittsburgh during the 2019-2020 season. He had 12 points while playing just under 20 minutes per game. Chara despite entering his age 43 season is still in good enough shape to play huge minutes. Last year he finished second on the Boston Bruins in ice time playing 21:01 per game. He also maintained a +26 plus-minus. While he is likely to see less ice time in 2021, he is still capable of eating major minutes and playing a solid shut down game for the Capitals.
With long-time Capitals starter Braden Holtby gone, Ilya Samsonov is going to enter his first season as a true NHL starter. As a rookie last season Samsonov started 22 games going 16-6-2. He had a decent statline with a 2.55 GAA and a .913 save percentage. While Samsonov looked good during his rookie season, it is unknown if he can handle a full starting role.
The Backup position for the Capitals will be a question mark to start the year. Vitek Vanecek is slated to the backup despite having no NHL experience. He has spent the last two seasons playing for the Capitals’ AHL affiliate in Hershey. Last year he played 31 AHL games and compiled a 2.26 GAA with a .917 save percentage.
Washington Capitals Preview 2021: Outlook
Our Washington Capitals Preview 2021 sees the hockey club as being in a spot to be among the top teams in the East Division. While their goaltending is a question mark, they are going to have very few problems scoring goals. Alex Ovechkin could easily score 35 goals during the shortened season. They also have plenty of offensive power through their forward corps along with a fairly deep blueline. Look for the Caps to make the playoffs in 2021.
Washington Capitals Preview 2021: Prediction
Record: 30-18-8, 68 points
Finish: 2nd in the East Division