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Washington Capitals Season Preview 2018-2019

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*Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals Season Preview

Ah, that still feels great to say. Yes, the Capitals are champions but like TJ Oshie said at the championship parade, “there’s only one goal, Back to Back.”

There’s no time for the defending champions, still feels great, to relax. 

They bring back most of the team that was around them last year. John Carlson, Michal Kempny, Tom Wilson, and Devante Smith-Pelly are all back, meaning that the Capitals will bring out 11/12 of the forwards that started in Game 5 against Vegas and at least 5, if not 6 of the defenseman that patrolled the blue line down at T-Mobile Arena.

While they are defending Stanley Cup Champions, there are a few questions around the Capitals.

  1. Who’s going to be the backup goaltender?

Braden Holtby was a great goalie in the playoffs, with a .922 SV% and a 2.16 goals against average. He was not that way in the regular season however, as he was benched in favor of Philipp Grubauer. That, ironically, allowed the Holtbeast to go into the postseason with a lower workload and to be better rested. This year, Philipp Grubauer is in Colorado playing for the Colorado Avalanche. In his place is Phoenix Copley, who has started a grand total of one game in the NHL. Now, Copley showed promise in the preseason, with a sparkling .943 SV% in three games, one of which was a 42 save shutout, but the fact remains that if he struggles, the Capitals will need to look elsewhere for a backup. Holtby needs to play between 50-60 games and no more than that. If he does, he won’t be great. If he’s not great, the Capitals will be back to shaking hands as another team beats them in either the first or second round.

  1. Is Todd Reirden a good coach?

After they won the title, the Capitals fired/forced the resignation of Barry Trotz, who now coaches the New York Islanders. Reirden was the right-hand man for a long time before finally being promoted to the top spot. There is no evidence saying he won’t be a good coach, and the players all seem to like him. The jury however, is extremely out so far and this season, and will serve to show if GM Brian MacLellan was right in taking a bet on Reirden.

  1. What’s the fourth line going to look like?

Last year’s Capitals had an electric fourth line that helped them win a championship. That line was made up primarily of Chandler Stephenson, Jay Beagle, and Devante Smith-Pelly. Sorry, that’s playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly. Beagle is gone, signing a four year, 12 million dollar contract with the Vancouver Canucks. His departure creates a void for the Capitals, as they lose their faceoff specialist who won 59% of his draws last year and was a key guy on the penalty kill. In his place, it looks like Nic Dowd will be the fourth line center. On the penalty kill, the Capitals are one of the teams that have begun to put skilled players on the PK, as Evegny Kuznetzov has gone on the kill a few times in the preseason. Smith-Pelly missed the first few games of the preseason due to a conditioning issue, but he returned against Carolina and seems to be ready for the season. He, Stephenson, and Dowd will be relied on to give the Capitals the four line attack they had last year.

  1. Who are the six starting defenseman and the one backup?

The Washington Capitals defense will not endure many changes from last season, with all seven defensemen returning. Be prepared to see Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen as your first pair defensemen. Orlov’s defensive game has improved over the last two seasons, and with his offensive talents, he will continue to be a reliable top paring defensemen for Washington. As for Niskanen, he has always been a reliable defender no matter who he is paired with, and consistently poses a threat on both ends of the ice. The second pairing defensemen Michal Kempny and John Carlson, will continue to be a dominant top 4 pairing. Kempny was brought to Washington during the trade deadline last season. He was the perfect fit for Washington’s line up and ultimate Stanley Cup run. Kempny also gels well with Carlson who signed an eight year contract this past offseason. However, an injury to Kempny during a preseason game against St. Louis could prove to be a big blow to Washington’s blue line. As for Carlson, he had a great postseason, proving that he wasn’t only a threat on the powerplay, but that he was a threat anywhere on the ice. That leaves the third pair defensemen Brooks Orpik and Christian Djoos. After being traded and then ultimately bought out by the Colorado Avalanche, Orpik is back in Washington on a one year contract. Orpik had another dull regular season, but eventually made up for it in the postseason. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Madison Bowey made an appearance in Orpik’s place. Christian Djoos has the talent to become a top four defensemen, and almost made it there last season. With amazing possession numbers, and the talent he has this year could potentially be a breakout season for the young defensmen.

  1. Final Predictions

Sara: The Washington Capitals will finish this season second in the Metropolitan, shyly breaking 100 points.The beginning of the season might start out slow, my guess is it’s the Cup hangover, but they will be able to catch fire at the perfect time. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Alex Ovechkin reach 50 goals this season, and perhaps if everything goes as planned John Carlson may have a shot at the Norris Trophy. As far as playoffs, if Washington can continue to play loose and enjoy themselves they might have a chance at a repeat.

Varun: The Capitals were a 100 point team a year ago with a litany of injuries and young and inexperienced players. Now, young forwards like Jakub Vrana, Andre Burakovsky, Chandler Stephenson, and defenseman like Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey have gained that experience and are now more equipped to handle the rigors of the NHL season. Ovi, Backy, Kuzy, and the rest of the veterans are going to be great and Holtby should have a bounce back season. Barring severe injuries, the Capitals should once again take the Metropolitan Division and be equipped for another Stanley Cup Playoff Run.

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Washington Capitals Season Preview 2018-2019