While that may sound strange considering they came third in the conference last year, the Caps are still on the way up, and will be a dominant team within a few years.
Forwards: So Washington has this player named Alexander Ovechkin who likes to score goals. Maybe you’ve heard of him? Probably the most entertaining player in the league, Ovechkin has scored at 50 goals in two of his three seasons in the NHL. As he matures, he’ll be a threat to score 80 one year.
Sergei Fedorov performed great with the Capitals in his brief time with them last year, but with a full season ahead, he’ll be expected to teach the young guns a few things as they start to mature.
Michael Nylander has been almost a point-per-game player in the past few years, but has had trouble with injuries. If he can stay healthy, he’ll help take a lot of the scoring pressure off Ovechkin.
Defence: Mike Green led the NHL in goals by a defenceman last season with 19. He only had two goals in 70 games the year before. Part of that may be the fact the team now plays more of an offensive style, although it could be a blip on the radar for him. It’ll be interesting to see which Mike Green shows up this year.
Brian Pothier is the other well-known defenceman on this team, but as of now, he is out indefinitely with concussion problems. He left Ottawa to sign a pretty decent contract with the Caps, so this is seen as a big blow to the team.
Goaltending: The team has a completely new pair of goaltenders to begin this season than they had at the end of last year. During the summer, they said goodbye to Cristobal Huet and Olaf Kolzig. Replacing them are Jose Theodore and Brent Johnson.
Theodore will be the number one goalie for this team. The Capitals are hoping he can repeat his Hart award-winning season from a few years ago with the Montreal Canadiens, but they’ll settle for the season he had last year in Colorado. With the Avalanche last season, he had a 2.44 goals against average and a .910 save percentage, and ended up winning the starting job.
Pool picks: After a few bad seasons in Columbus, Sergei Fedorov shone when he was traded to Washington last season. He had 13 points in 18 games. While his point-per-game days are behind him, he should still be good for at least 50 points. Stay away from: Viktor Kozlov. He has scored at least 50 points the last two seasons, but he’s been healthy for those two years. He has a history of injuries, so if he misses some time, he’ll be back to the 20-30 point range.
Miscellaneous: The team is set for the next few years with their young players, as most of them are signed to longer-term contracts. None of those are most important than Alexander Ovechkin who is signed for almost the next decade.
Expected finish: First in the Southeast division, third in the Eastern conference
Overall: The Capitals play an exciting brand of hockey, but are also fortunate they play in the weakest division in the league. But they won’t need to worry about that for long. They’re young, and will only get better as the years go on.