Can Caps Uncork A Run In NHL Playoffs?

It’s hard to be a Capitals fan.

To love Washington’s entry in the National Hockey League is to love a team of immense gifts — Alex Ovechkin is perhaps the greatest scorer in NHL history — and immense heartbreak.

Since Ovechkin was the NHL’s Rookie of the Year in 2005-06, the Capitals have won their division seven times and have been to the playoffs nine times. In that span they’ve never so much as reached a conference final. Three of those times, they’ve led the league in points and lost a Game 7 in the first or second round of the playoffs.

Moreover, after first making the playoffs in 1983, the Caps have missed the playoffs only seven times. In 27 postseason tournaments, Washington has reached exactly one Stanley Cup Final — getting swept by Detroit in 1998.

So, here they are again, in first place entering March. What reasons are there to think the Capitals will avoid a fourth straight second-round ouster?

Not many, it appears.

Deadline Doldrums

The Caps more or less stood pat at the trade deadline, giving up third- and fifth-round draft picks for a couple of players best described as “defensive depth.”

The moves were underwhelming, considering Washington’s woes on the back end this season. Among the eight teams who would be in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket as of March 1, the Caps’ save percentage of .908 ranked sixth, their goal differential average of .08 ranked seventh, and their shot differential average of -3.8 was dead last.

It hasn’t helped that first-string goalie Braden Holtby is trending in the wrong direction. He’s carrying a save percentage of .908 — well off his career mark of .920 — and he’s even dipped since the halfway point of the season, when he was at .917.

At least his backup, Philipp Grubauer, has been on a hot streak of late. After posting a first-half save percentage of .909, he’s up to .922 (better than his career number) and won his last four February starts while allowing one goal against 29 shots in two relief appearances for Holtby.

Ovechkin and the Offense

True, at age 32, Ovechkin is showing no signs of slowing down. He’s leading the league in goals — if he finishes the season in that spot, he’ll tie Bobby Hull’s record of topping the league in that category seven times.

25-year-old center Evgeny Kuznetsov has blossomed after starting the season playing beside Ovechkin on the top line.

T.J. Oshie, after scoring 33 goals in a contract year last season, had just 12 entering March. And Nicklas Backstrom, feeding Ovechkin since 2007, has seen his assists dip as his ice time with the Russian superstar has become less consistent.

Now What?

February was a strange month. First place in the Metropolitan Division was briefly ceded to Pittsburgh as the Penguins won six straight. But Pittsburgh lost its last two of the month and the Caps won two of their last three to enter March atop the heap, with Philadelphia sneaking ahead of the Penguins.

Despite their spot in the standings, expectations for the Capitals are low. A TSN midseason poll — which last year had 15 coaches picking them to reach the Finals — saw the Caps earn not so much as a single mention.

Maybe sneaking up on the competition is their best bet.

Author bio: AJ Lee is Marketing Coordinator for Pro Stock Hockey, an online hockey shop offering authentic pro stock hockey equipment. He was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life. AJ picked up his first hockey stick at age 3, and hasn’t put it down yet.

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Caps Heating Up Snowy D.C.

As the weather begins to change and temperatures are dropping in the nation’s capital, the city’s hockey team is beginning to heat up. With a 4-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Friday night, the Capitals won for the fourth straight game. The win moves Washington (18-11-1) into a first-place tie with Columbus in the Metropolitan Division. The victory also moves the Capitals past their nemesis, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are one of six teams in the division with 32 or more points.

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The Capitals have won eight of 10 games since they embarked on a short two-game road trip to Nashville and Colorado. One of the big reasons why is the play of goalie Braden Holtby. The seven-year NHL veteran stopped 27 shots on Friday night against the Rangers to give him 16 wins for the season. That ties him for second among all NHL goaltenders.

Aside from Holtby who gives the Capitals a chance every night, the play of star Alex Ovechkin has been impressive thus far this season. The perennial All-Star continues to lead the NHL in goals with 21 and has a total of 33 points to lead the Capitals. Ovechkin is the heart and soul of the Capitals, who will go for five in a row on Monday night when they take on the New York Islanders.

Ovechkin and Holtby have received plenty of help from C Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is second on the team with 31 points. In Friday’s win, Matt Niskanen scored his first goal of the season, the game-winner with less than four minutes to play.

“Hockey’s a lot more fun when you’re playing well, playing hard for each other like we are right now,” said Niskanen, a 10-year veteran who has been in Washington for four seasons now.

Niskanen’s goal was a big one coming with 3:22 to play after the Rangers had tied the score at 2-2. There are six teams in the Metropolitan Division that are separated by a mere five points. A regulation win was needed to push the Capitals further up in the standings. Washington coach Barry Trotz is not concerned where his team is in the standings just yet.

“I’m not getting too excited about where we are,” Trotz said. “This whole Metro division is a monster. We’re going to have to deal with it all year.”

Another plus for the Caps has been playing at home. The four straight wins all came in the confines of the Capital One Arena. Since Nov. 2, Washington is 10-2 at home and the team has won 13 of its past 18 games. Only five of those games have been on the road and the Capitals lost three of them.

Washington is going to have win on the road if they are serious about continuing their success. The Capitals have 10 games remaining in December – beginning with the Islanders on Monday – and six of those are on the road. The Caps will face nine different opponents – they play Boston twice – and just one can equal Washington’s 37 points. That is the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

The Caps continue to start fast. For the fifth game in a row, Washington scored first. Jay Beagle scored just 14 seconds into the win over the Rangers. The Capitals are ninth in the league in scoring averaging 3.1 goals per game. The power play is eighth (21.2 percent). Washington won the last two games without RW T.J. Oshie who is third on the team in scoring with 23 points (13 goals).

Gearing up for the Caps Season

We made it Caps fans. The regular season for the Capitals starts tonight, October 5th, when our team faces off against the Ottawa Senators. Its been a rough offseason. Aside from that bitter, yet familiar taste of losing in the playoffs to the Penguins, this offseason was full of turnover and let downs.

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Roster turnovers and Replacements: The Capitals this offseason needed to replace two of their top six forwards, and oh yeah, two of their top six defensemen. We knew that Karl Alzner wasn’t going to stick around (signed with Montreal Canadiens –dumbest name ever) and we also lost Kevin Shattenkirk (signed to the NY Rangers). The stinger was Vegas taking Nate Schmidt.

So where does that leave us? The young guns on ice needing to step up. Bowey, Ness, Djoos stuck around after roster cuts. The hope here is some youth and speed will help shore up a defense that at times looked a bit tired.

Holtby, you’re the goalie. It’s supposed to hit you: (Shout out to the Mighty Ducks) Holtby was a stud last year. Heck for the past 3 years he’s had 40-win seasons. Side note: Grubauer showed he was a solid backup.  However with the roster changes on defense and the number and quality of shots that Holtby may face this year, our goalie knows it’s gonna take a little bit more:

“What we needed the last couple years was just consistency and not letting in goals that changed the momentum of the game, staying that steady, calming influence,” Holtby said. “Who knows? We might still have that again. If we don’t, sometimes you need the big saves. You need to make a lot of them at different times in the game, and it’s a different mentality sometimes.”

Ovenchicken new and improved? Too many times last year, the guys on the DTC podcast would constantly ask me why we still have Ovechkin and if he was our biggest liability in the playoffs. Yes last season he went from consecutive 50-goal seasons to almost career low 33. The reason? The Capitals had scoring depth. Sadly with Justin Williams gone and Marcus Johansson being traded, Ovechkin will need to step back up. I personally think he’s up to the task.

In addition to Ovechkin picking up the slack, the scoring opportunities for Burakovsly, Connolly, Lars Eller and Tom Wilson will be increased. The bigger roles hopefully will translate into more goals.

October Sucks: When the season schedule comes out for the NFL, analysts and fans are quick to break down the opponents and take a guess at their teams record. With baseball, basketball and hockey, its not that big of a deal. There are so many games, you focus on the key match-ups, the rivalries and biggies. This year however, the start of the Capitals season is rough. 8 of their first 12 games will be on the road.  3 of the 4 remaining home games, will be against teams that made it to the playoffs (Penguins, Maple Leafs, Canadiens).

If the Caps can get through October, and more importantly our new guys can step up and play some solid hockey, it should be enough to calm everyone down after such a sad looking pre-season.


Caps offseason check-in

Forgive me for not wanting to dive into the Caps during their offseason. The depth is gone. The team got worse this offseason. Quite frankly, offseason hockey doesn’t have the same entertainment as the NBA. Yes, the Capitals very much like the Nationals at this point are still a lock for winning their division, however I for one am weary of their ability to push further in the playoffs. Ask any fan, or re-watch the playoffs and it’ll become clear that our biggest strength was our depth. Ovechkin is overwhelming and Backstrom is brilliant, but the Caps didn’t need them for everything. We had lines that could score and defensive pairs that were able to keep the nerves at bay.


Nate Schmidt, Karl Alzner, Shattenkirk, and forwards Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson – All gone. Sure, we signed some guys back with LTDs; Oshie, Kuznetsov and Burakovsky, but is that enough? Will the drafted players make an impact? Will Brett Connolly and Devante Smith-Pelly and Lars Eller help? The Caps have always found a way to make it work. I often relate them to the New England patriots of the NFL. Constantly able to win, and doing so regardless of who leaves the team. The one glaring problem with my comparison is the LACK OF CHAMPIONSHIPS.

We still have holes to fill. Mainly an opening on the blue line. Stupid Las Vegas took Nate Schmidt. Then Alzner leaves for Montreal. Two staples of a blue line that allowed the fewest goals per game in the league last year. Recently signed veteran Jyrki Jokipakka (fantastic name) is on a tryout agreement. No risk, hopeful reward. Can’t complain. Still unproven and rough around the edges, Jokipakka is still a left handed-shot that scored 3 goals and 25 assists during his career. Yes, we have Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey, but competition is a good thing…

Continuity used to be our friend. Continuity is now gone. If only the Caps could’ve copied the Wizards offseason moves, or more realistically if only the NHL was as insane as the NBA. I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom. The Capitals still have a fantastic team, and hopefully the new faces bring a fire and energy and intensity to practice and to the team as a whole. John Carlson and Braden Holtby both feel the same way. Competition is the driving force behind production. The Caps, as successful as they’ve been have not been productive in producing championships.

Yes this offseason we saw a lot of big names vets leave. Everyone knew the cap was going to eventually shake this team up. As scary as it seems, this season will definitely be more interesting to watch. All in all the Caps will now have two defenseman, three new forwards and lots of competition when camp opens up in a few days. So here’s to hockey coming back, new names to learn and hopefully a team that surprises everyone and becomes a young yet talented force! #ROCKTHERED (Photo Credit: CSN Mid-Atlantic)

So….Do the Caps still have a shot?

The last time we covered the caps on DTC, we discussed their Off season moves, the draft and what pieces are still missing. A few more moves happened, yet the question remains….”So will we have another shot?” Being that this is a DC sports team, most fans fell into two categories after the Caps yet again shot blanks (pun intended) in the playoffs. Either you gave up all hope, said we need to blow up the entire team, Ovi is old and fire Trotz, or you were a hopeless fan who believed we’d figure it out and make the right moves this offseason.


As discussed previously, the Capitals resigned Oshie to  monster 8yr/46mil deal. At first everyone was thrilled we retained the contributing and big time right winger. That was until everyone remembered he’s 30. Next the Caps resigned Orlov, younger and a defensemen we need, but essentially caused us to lose Shattenkirk. To the Rangers. 1 of the 3 heads in the Capitals playoffs nightmare.

How’s everyone feeling so far? The loyalists still loyal? The deflated still flat? Lets keep going shall we? With Shattenkirk gone, his blue line partner Alzner is also gone. Who went to Montreal (that would be head number 2 for those keeping track). Sadly, the worst news still hasn’t been mentioned. Trading away Johansson for draft picks. I understand the move, and MacLellan was justified in doing so in order to retain a high ceiling player in Center Kuznetsov.  Until you realize that he kept 36 year old Orpik, with a pretty big cap hit on the team. What was his reason? Orpik’s off-ice value. MacLellan and Bruce Allen probably talk about winning off the field/ice over drinks on the regular.

So do we still have a shot? Can the Capitals find a way to make it back into the playoffs? As a recap we are left with, over paid vets, an abundance of young talent and giving opposing teams some pretty serious weapons. The nucleus is still there. The off-ice veterans are there to help the young talent, and I believe in Trotz to make us competitive. Sadly though nobody will know if we suck or not until we make it to the playoffs.