Feb. 15, 2017
Are the Capitals winning the Stanley Cup this year? They HAVE to. The Caps have all the right pieces. Everyone thought after winning the Presidents Trophy last season that it was the Caps year, but they were exposed by the Pittsburgh Penguins ability to score using all four lines. The Capitals v. Penguins series was a lot closer than everybody perceives it to be. Although the Capitals lost in six games, each one of those games were very close. What Pittsburgh had that Washington didn’t have, was third and fourth line scoring.
The Caps slumped into the off-season feeling like their heads were kicked in. Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said, “this one hurts.” Yeah this one hurts. I’ve been watching the Capitals for years now and it always hurts, but that one really freaking hurt. It just goes to show that the regular season means nothing. Towards the end of last season, we saw the Capitals focus more on trying to achieve individual accolades for their teammates such as Braden Holtby tying Martin Brodeur for most wins in a single season, and Alex Ovechkin having another 50 goal season. This year it’s not about that meaningless crap and the players know that. Yeah it’s cool and very impressive, but for a team that has gone 40 years without a cup, it’s irrelevant.
During the offseason, General Manager Brian MacLellan went out and traded for Montreal Canadiens center, Lars Eller and also signed free agent Brett Connolly. GMBM wanted to make sure that for the 2016-17 season, his third and fourth lines provide some depth scoring. So far that’s what it’s been doing. Brett Connolly, Lars Eller, and Andre Burakovsky have been lighting it up since the all-star break, but with Burakvosky going down with a hand injury, things could start to trend in the wrong direction. Tom Wilson, Jay Beagle, and Daniel Winnik have been outstanding all year long for Washington. I think they are one of the best fourth lines in the NHL. They have exposed so many teams with their hard forecheck and ability to score big goals in big games. This is what last year’s Capitals team was missing. You can’t rely on your first and second lines to carry the team through the playoffs. It just never works like that. Each year you see a team win a Stanley Cup due to their incredible depth on offense and defense. Defense the Capitals have. Go look at the numbers if you don’t believe me. I mean Brooks Opik for instance. That walking corpse leads the league in plus-minus. Go figure. Could have used you in that Penguins series, Brooks!
Even though Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, and T.J. Oshie are having exceptional years, that’s not going to win them a cup. Washington needs guys like Kuznetsov, Burakovsky, Johansson and Eller to step up and make that big play in a key moment of the game. Kind of why we brought Justin Williams in here for, which we sort of got last year, but not really. Washington didn’t have the finish last year. They had enough to force the Penguins into overtime, but Pittsburgh always had that final push that the Capitals lacked. Right now the Caps are dominating not only the Eastern conference, but the entire league with the exception of the Minnesota Wild. All the regular season signs are good. Playoff time is a much different story. One reason why I think this is the Caps year is because of their recent play at Verizon Center. They have won 12 straight games at home and have put up five or more goals in each game against GOOD teams. Most of these games have one if not no goals from Alex Ovechkin. All four lines are contributing and their game isn’t decided by their power play, which it solely was in previous seasons. Oh and the Capitals goaltending duo is gross. Braden Holtby has won 14 games in a row and both him and Grubauer have a franchise high combined ten shutouts.