There’s no debating the talent of the Washington Capitals as they are one of the more talented teams in the National Hockey League. But just because the Capitals are a talented team doesn’t mean that they’ve been consistently victorious. Two years ago the Capitals were one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, but they were eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the New York Rangers. Last season the underachieving Caps missed the playoffs by three points and because of this general manager George McPhee head coach Adam Oates let go last spring. Brian MacLellan was hired to be the new Capitals general manager and he appointed Barry Trotz to be the new head coach in D.C. Trotz had recently been put out of work after he was fired as he had been the only head coach in the history of the Nashville Predators. And with the Capitals, MacLellan and Trotz are getting the most out of their roster this season.
The Caps won’t be watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs from home this spring as they’ll be participating in them. The Capitals currently have the fourth best record in the Eastern Conference and they have their first 100-point season since the 2010-2011 NHL season.
The Capitals got off to a slow start this season as they were 10-10-4 on December 2 following a home loss to the Vancouver Canucks. But since the start of 2015, Washington has been one of the hottest teams in hockey. The Caps defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 on New Year’s Day in the Winter Classic at Nationals Park and they haven’t looked back as they’re 27-14-4 since then as they’ve been carried by their leaders.
Capitals left winger Alex Ovechkin is one of the premier superstars in the National Hockey League due to his size, speed, and overall scoring ability. Through the end of December, Ovechkin had 17 goals on the season. But it appears that Ovechkin made a New Year’s resolution to score and keep on scoring. In Janaury, Ovechkin went for 12 goals including a pair in a 4-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins and his rival there in center Sidney Crosby. In the chill of February, Ovechkin continued to sizzle as he went for 10 goals in the shortest month of the year. And as March rolled around, Ovechkin didn’t stop as he went for 11 goals including a pair in a critical victory at the end of the month over the Rangers. Whereas Ovechkin was once looking up at Rangers left winger Rick Nash and Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin as far as being the top goal scorers in the NHL this season, Ovechkin has blazed by them and the rest of the pack as he will lead the league in goals scored for the sixth time in his career.
Ovechkin has had help all season on his line from Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom sets them up and Ovechkin knocks them down. As Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals this season with 52, many of those assists have come from Backstrom. Backstrom is tied for the league this season in assists with 59. The law firm of Ovechkin and Backstrom have also helped the Caps to have the top power play percentage in the NHL this season.
And as scoring alone with not make a team a contender; even with the stars that they have lighting the lamp, you need to have a quality net minder and the Caps have found one in goalie Braden Holtby. Holtby is in his fifth NHL season (all with the Capitals) and he has come into his own. Holtby’s 2.21 goals against average this season is fifth in the league and he’s also been durable as he’s appeared in 72 games this season.
As the Stanley Cup Playoffs are set to begin, the Capitals have everything set up for a deep run. Trotz is an experienced head coach that wants to make the most out of his second chance. Washington has a star in Ovechkin that can put a team on his back. And Holtby can be a one-man gang between the pipes. All that is left for the Capitals to do is to go out there and make this spring to remember for the hockey fans in the Nation’s Capitol.