The past 11 years have seen left winger Alex Ovechkin become the face of the Washington Capitals franchise along with being one of the top stars in the National Hockey League. Ovechkin has accomplished many tremendous individual accolades while wearing a Capitals uniform as he was the NHL’s Rookie of the Year in 2005 along with being a three-time league MVP. Ovechkin is also continuing to re-write the Capitals record book as he recently became the first player in franchise history to score 500 career goals. But as good as Ovechkin is, he hasn’t been able to bring a Stanley Cup Championship to D.C. However that could change soon as the Caps have one of the best teams in the NHL this season.
Recently the Capitals be one of the best teams in the National Hockey League on paper, but it hasn’t resulted in postseason success. After being eliminated in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring by the New York Rangers, the Capitals have been a very focused team this NHL season that is executing with precision in every aspect of the game.
The Capitals began this National Hockey League season with a record of 8-2 and they have not looked back as this team hasn’t lost more than two games in a row this season. At first it appeared like it was going to be three-team race between the Caps, Rangers, and Montreal Canadiens to be the top team in the Eastern Conference. But as the Rangers and Canadiens have cooled off, Washington has kept their foot on the throttle. The Capitals have won six out their last seven games including a pair of victories over the Rangers. And now the Capitals find themselves with an 18-point lead over the Rangers for first place in the Metropolitan Division while they possess a 14-point cushion over the Florida Panthers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Caps appear to be well on their way to a playoff spot, and they are also in the hunt to win their second Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history as the team with the best record in the NHL.
Any success that the Capitals are going to have starts and ends with Ovechkin. This season Ovechkin’s 27 goals are second in the National Hockey League. Ovechkin has benefitted from playing on a line with center Nicklas Backstrom who knows how to set the Russian superstar up for goal scoring chances. This season Backstrom has been setting up both Ovechkin and right winger T.J. Oshie as his 29 assists are tied with his Capitals teammate in center Evgeny Kuznetsov for the sixth most assists in the NHL.
The Capitals have also been a good defensive club as they are led by goaltender Braden Holtby who is one of the best in the business between the pipes. Last season saw Holtby emerge as one of the top goalies in the National Hockey League when he led the league in saves with 1,887 while winning 41 games. This season has seen Holtby continue to be an efficient as his 29 wins lead the NHL while he is only allowing 1.99 goals per game along with possessing a .931 save percentage.
The Caps received an unexpected gift in 2014 when Barry Trotz was fired as the head coach of the Nashville Predators. Trotz was the first head coach in the history of the Predators and in his 15 seasons in Nashville, he led them to seven postseason appearances. And with the Capitals, Trotz has created a fun environment for hockey which is keeping all of his players involved which is evident by the team’s success this season.
With just a few games left before the National Hockey League’s All-Star break, the Capitals want to keep their momentum going. And with upcoming games against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, Washington has an opportunity to bury the competition in the Eastern Conference which they are hopeful that this magical season will lead to their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final since 1998 along with winning their first title in franchise history.