Last season, the Washington Capitals continued to be the bridesmaid rather than the bride, as they had a fine run to playoffs, only to once again fizzle out in the postseason. Our Washington Capitals 2017-2018 Season Preview sees this team as struggling in the regular season due to major losses on offense and defense. Exactly where they will end up is questionable. But no matter where they finish, remember that although the Caps have won nine division titles and three Presidents’ Trophies, they have not made it past of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 16 seasons.
The Caps have a rich assortment of forwards, including 32-year-old captain Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin’s output fell off last season, dropping from 50 goals the year before to 33. The Capitals want him to come back speedier. Will he? Also upfront is smart and wiley center Nicklas Backstrom. In 82 games last season, he was fourth in points with 23 goals and 63 assists. Backstrom is massive on the power play. At right wing, T.J. Oshie is capable of a 60-plus point season.
Evgeny Kuznetsov remains a major question mark for this team. In 2015-16, he notched 77 points, and then last season he dropped down to 59. He’s in the fourth year of an eight-year, $62.4 million deal. He needs to step it up as does Andre Burakovsky who has just 12 goals last year. This is his fourth season. Might it be his breakout year?
Departing on offense are two productive forwards, Marcus Johansson (24 goals) who went to the New Jersey Devils and Justin Williams (24 goals) who signed with the move to the Carolina Hurricanes. Winger Devante Smith-Pelly brings his checking instincts and low point totals from NJ to DC. The 2014 13th overall draft pick Jakub Vrana, a rookie left winger, will see ice time. In 2016-17, he has 36 points in 49 games with the Hershey Bears (AHL). That same season, he played 21 games with the Caps and scored three times.
Washington has some major issues on defense, and in part due to salary-cap issues that precluded them from resigning two important D-men, Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner. Shattenkirk went to the Rangers and Alzner to the Canadiens. Plus, the Caps saw Nate Schmidt be taken in the expansion draft.
That means the blue line is comprised of an aging Brooks Orpik and three rookies, Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos and Lucas Johansen. Plus, there’s Dmitry Orlov. Last season his was fifth amongst defensemen for ice time. He will probably move up quite a bit this season. Orlov has improved over the past two seasons. His performance and leadership on the blue line and especially on the penalty kill may make or break this defense. Also important is John Carlson; that is if he can stay healthy. In the past two seasons, he’s missed 38 games.
Braden Holtby is solid in goal and can be a major difference-maker. He’s a 40-win goalie, but he may be relegated to 35 this season due to losses, especially on defense. Still, he’ll keep this team in the playoff drive throughout the season.
If Holtby runs into trouble, Philipp Grubauer, a 25-year-old German, could easily step in. In 24 games last season, he earned a mark of 13-6-2. On another team, he’d be the number one guy in net. On the other hand, his $1.5 million contract makes him an ideal trade candidate. Might the Caps bolster their defense with a solid trade?
Washington Capitals 2017-2018 Season Preview: Overall Outlook
Our Washington Capitals 2017-2018 Season Preview sees this team as struggling to win another Presidents’ Trophy. They will be challenged this season and especially on defense. In addition, they need Ovechkin and Kuznetsov to find their form when it comes to goal scoring. Rookie Vrana can be a real wild card.
- The Caps have a tough time finishing, and that’s despite having taken nine division titles and three Presidents’ Trophies. They seem to be perpetually stuck in the second round of the playoffs. Do they have the drive to get to the next level?
- So many rookies on the blue line means that Orlov has to move up and become a leader, especially on the power-play and penalty-kill.
- Salary cap issues, poor draft performance, and bad timing have hurt the Washington Capitals, making them less of a sure thing as far as being a Stanley Cup contender is concerned.