Well folks here we are its almost time for puck drop for the new season of our beloved Washington Capitals and the chase to hoist the Stanley Cup.
The the start of this season will look very different with the absence of our quiet leader Nicklas Backstrom and our beautiful bruiser Tom Wilson still rehabbing from his ACL injury that took place in game one of the first round of the playoffs.
Even with those injuries Vegas is still giving the boys a 71% chance to make the playoffs (I’ll take those odds any day).
The Caps really didn’t do much to improve their overall depth on the ice but they obviously have more stability in between the pipes with the addition of last years Stanley Cup Champion goalie Darcy Kuemper ( even if we overpaid for him in my opinion).
As mentioned above the Caps will be without two of their top forwards to start the season or maybe longer so they will be riding on the next man up mentality until Wilson returns, but still optimistic if Backy plays this season.
The biggest concern which has been over the past couple years is our aging core even though Ovechkin continues to play at a high caliber we still need some youngsters and journeymen to step up and play bigger roles, but guys like John Carlson and T.J. Oshie aren’t getting any younger.
Two key players that if they can find that extra gear can play huge dividends on the ice and those guys are Dylan Strome and Connor McMichael.
Strome has top level faceoff winning potential and he showed that in 2015 where his finished 3rd in playoff winning percentage. I know that was along time ago but that skill is still there and just needs to be more consistent. He will be taking Backy’s position while he is out now he is no Backstrom but he play a bridge role for now.
As for McMichael personally I have no idea why he didn’t get more ice time last season because he showed sparks of brilliance but never was able to get into a groove because the Caps would send him back down to Hershey. So it looks like he will be in the “show” for the majority of the season and this is his “prove it” year so lets hope this youngster crushes it.
I also think Martin Fehervary and Hendrix Lapierre are going to have big seasons this year for us they have had enough NHL experience now to have that breakout year we’ve been waiting for.
The acquisition of Kuemper was our “big move” this offseason and he is getting paid big money for a guy that just won a cup but doesn’t really have the numbers to deserve the contract he got but lets hope he proves me wrong and I can eat my words.
Kuemper was 5th in the NHL in both goals saved above expected at 15.86 and save percentage at .921 but remember he also had a super team in front of him with guys like Makar saving him a lot.
The Caps last year were 23rd in save percentage so Kuemper will obviously change that for the better but can he be that gamechanger type goalie whenever the offense is struggling.
We also acquired Charlie Lindgren from St. Louis as his backup where he posted a .958 saver percentage, but he isn’t expected to play more than 20ish games because if that happens that means the Caps are in trouble.
Ovechkin and Kuznetsov coming off two great seasons specifically Kuzy after having a pathetic 2020 season where I was asking for us to trade him and he really turned a new leaf last season. I expect Kuzy to ball out this season and be the teams leading point and goal getter right in front of Ovi.
Guys like Anthony Mantha would struggled with the injury bug when healthy he can be a gamechanger for this club but that’s a big if! He was still able to compile 13 goals, 18 assists in the 51 games he played so the impact is there.
Our gritty guys Conor Sheary, Nic Dowd, and Garnet Hathaway could be our X-factor guys if they can play a step up this team could enter demon mode and easily give us a strong playoff run. Expect Hathaway to play that rat/scumbag on the ice in the absence of Wilson which I love about him he isn’t afraid to stir it up and we need more guys like that.
As for our backend which was our weak spot last year in my opinion we still have Carlson, Orlov and Jensen as the core D-men but we need them to play much better than they did last season. Carly still had 71 points but didn’t show up on D when we really needed him to in the playoffs.
Overall the Caps are starting the season less than healthy and are going to be playing catch up and hoping their younger guys step up early and play a bigger role. Ovi will still find a way to score goals so here’s to him moving up on the all time goal scoring list this season.
Where he stands:
So he will be 2nd All-Time by seasons end and then the countdown begins to the Great One!
Its always Cup or bust with this team and with a solid goalie number 1 going into the season I am more confident in this team this year than I was last year even with the two big injuries up front.
Lets have a great season Cap’s fans and I will see you in the playoffs and hopefully another Cup Final run!