It feels like we’ve said this every year for the past four or five, but this season really could be the one. Once again, the Washington Capitals sit atop the league with 70 points and a 32-9-6 record.
Before last week’s 8-7 barn burner loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins the Caps had rattled off nine straight wins. Now, they’ve won their last three and look for their fourth straight tonight against the Ottawa Senators.
But what makes this team so special?
The Great Eight
Naturally, Alex Ovechkin is a big piece of the puzzle for the Washington Capitals. Working under head coach Barry Trotz for the past two almost three seasons has really pushed Ovechkin to develop his defensive game to help with his offensive game.
Ovechkin has 22 goals and 21 assists through 47 games this season.
Earlier this month, Ovechkin reached the 1’000 point milestone, not to mention the countless records he’s broken this season. Currently, he’s on an eight game point-streak. He is an offensive leader of the team and inspires others around him to be even better.
The Supporting Acts
The rest of the forward group in D.C. has been stellar this season. Nicklas Backstrom leads the team in points with 47 – good for sixth in the league. TJ Oshie and Marcus Johansson have 32 points each, Evgeny Kuznetsov has 35, and Andre Burakovsky has 25.
The Capitals can rely on secondary scoring from their second and third line forwards. They are large offensive contributors, which is extremely important heading into the playoffs.
The Heroic Holtby
Braden Holtby is having another tremendous season. Last year he helped the Capitals along to 120 points in the regular season. He finished the 2015-16 with a 48-9-7 record. This season he is 23-8-4, just one loss shy of last years record.
However, this season he has a substantially improved GAA at 1.96 and a .929 save percentage. He has really proved his worth over the past couple seasons, and now with the experience under his belt, he could be what the Caps need to propel themselves into the Stanley Cup Final.
The Question Mark
The question mark for the Capitals still lies in the defense. While they have the leagues lowest goals against average per game at 2.06, that is helped by solid goaltending. Their defense looks better than it has in recent years. The Capitals also have the third best penalty kill at 85.7%.
After a second round knock-out by the eventual Stanley Cup champions the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Capitals are out for revenge this year. Ovechkin is running out of time to grab Lord Stanley before he retires. Finally he has a team behind him to help out. This could be their year.