Two years ago the Washington Capitals were on top of the world. Champions at last in 2018 and Alex Ovechkin finally hoisted Lord Stanley over his head. One year later the Capitals got stunned by a bunch of jerks in the first round. Leading game 7 with multiple goals with only 24 minutes remaining of the game, yet they lost in double overtime. A painful loss for the former Champions, who now is looking to make amends and regain their title. The first obstacle Washington will face is the Round Robin games.
Before going too far into the analysis, let’s first take a look at the players going to Toronto. Their playoff roster is as follows:
Forwards: Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Nic Dowd, Lars Eller, Carl Hagelin, Garnet Hathaway, Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Philippe Maillet, Beck Malenstyn, Connor McMichael, T.J. Oshie, Alex Ovechkin, Richard Panik, Brain Pinho, Daniel Sprong, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson
Defensemen: Alexander Alexeyev, John Carlson, Brenden Dillon, Martin Fehervary, Radko Gudas, Nick Jensen, Michal Kempny, Tyler Lewington, Dmitry Orlov, Jonas Siegenthaler
Goalies: Pheonix Copley, Braden Holtby, Vitek Vanecek
Their schedule for their exhibition game and round robin games is as follows:
Exhibition Game July 29 vs Carolina 4pm ET
Round Robin Game August 3 vs Tampa 4:00pm ET
Round Robin Game August 6 vs Philadelphia TBD
Round Robin Game August 9 vs Boston TBD
The Washington Capitals are one of the strongest teams on paper with exceptional strengths in almost all areas of the ice. They have Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov driving the top lines. Superstars that can beat any other top six in the league, in terms of scoring. Due to the same players, their powerplay is a major treat for anyone. Ovechkin’s office has always stayed red hot in the regular season.
Then there is the depth where the Caps can play the likes of Lars Eller, Jakub Vrana, and Ilya Kovalchuk. So even if you shut down the top six, the depth forwards can bring their best and turn games around. Offensively this is a juggernaut.
Defensively they got a Norris candidate in John Carlsson, and shut down defenders such as Radko Gudas. On the blueline, they are able to beat most teams as well. On the Skater side, not many teams are able to beat the Washington Capitals. They have all it takes to win the cup when it comes to their strengths.
So how do you beat the Capitals? Well first off you have to play at your best each shift. Secondly, try and exploit their single weakness. Goaltending. More so Braden Holtby. Yes, cup-winning Holtby. However this season he has been anything but a beast in the net. A below .900 save percentage, a 3.11 GAA. Holtby had a rough season and eventually lost the starting job to Ilya Samsonov.
However, an injury in training camp to the Russian netminder means that he won’t be taking part in the playoff. Therefore Holtby is the starter. Without a lot of depth, should he start off slow or get hurt in the playoffs, the Caps are not going to win. Every team needs their goaltender to play above league average to win. So far this season Holtby hasn’t and this could cost the Capitals their second Stanley Cup.
Who to watch?
Jakub Vrana will be the player to watch for the Capitals. He is incredibly fast and this season was a breakout year for the 23-year-old. Watch for him to become a major part of the depth scoring for the Capitals this postseason.
Will Ovechkin Lift The Cup Once More?
Sadly, I think the conference finals or the second round will be the end for the Washington Capitals. With Samsonov out of the lineup, I don’t see them winning, despite the amazing talent they have on the forward and defensive side of the puck. A shame for a team where the window might be closing on them soon.
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