The Washington Capitals have emerged as the new dominating NHL team. Every couple of years, there seems to be a new team that emerges into the spotlight as the new dominating team. For the past couple years, it could’ve been argued that it was either the Chicago Blackhawks, or the Los Angeles Kings. Both teams had at least two Stanley Cup wins since 2010.
However, once one king is removed from his throne, another must come up to take his place. There are a lot of teams who could have taken the spot, possibly the Montreal Canadiens or the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, not many people expected the Washington Capitals to take the throne.
The new and up-coming dominance over the last couple years from the Capitals can come from many aspects. It could possibly be their new coach, Barry Trotz, who has led them to the playoffs twice in his first two years – and will most likely return this year as well.
One could also look at the dominating players that the Capitals are being led by. Alexander Ovechkin (23 G, 22 A – 45 P) has been a top player all year, and is fourth in goals in the entire league. Another huge help has been Nicklas Backstrom (13 G, 34 A – 47 P) who is currently tied for second in the league for assists.
Braden Holtby has also helped the Capitals manage their defense and goal-tending. Holtby is one of the top goaltenders in the league, with a 1.98 Goals Against Average, with league-leading six shutouts throughout the course of the season.
With no Stanley Cup Championship wins, and only one appearance (1998), the fans of Washington would like to hopefully end this 17-year drought. The last time the Capitals were in the finals, they were swept in four games by the Steve Yzerman-led Detroit Red Wings.
Since that season, the farthest the Capitals have made it is the second round of the playoffs. Most recently, during the 2015-2016 season, the Capitals were defeated in the second round by the eventual champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-2.
Ovechkin and Backstrom: Capitalizing the Situation
Both of these players are leading the Capitals to greater things. This is not the first time either player has led the Capitals with points. While it looked like their prime came around 10 years ago, a consistent production is still very nice.
Ovechkin is know as the goal-scorer. Before this season, he had three straight years of 50 or more goals in a season, and is currently on pace to keep that streak going. He’s also added a decent amount of assists, with at least 20 assists per season.
With all of this excellent production, he’s been awarded the Maurice “Rocket” Trophy for being the top goal-scorer of the league throughout the season. This season, Ovechkin also completed the milestone of 1000 points in his career. He is the eighty-fourth player to reach this achievement.
The point came off of a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored only 35 seconds into the game.
Backstrom has also helped the Capitals, mainly in the assist category. He even assisted Oveckin’s goal to help him get into the 1000 point category. He’s been a strong center for the Capitals, and looks to help them even more later in the season.
He is also very strong at the face-off circle, with a 52.19% Face-Off Win Percentage. He, along with Ovechkin, will be headed to the NHL All-Star game to represent the Metropolitan Division.
Holtby: Keeping the Capitals Defense Sharp
Holtby emerged from the shadows only a couple seasons ago, and became a main reason why the Capitals have been one of the top teams in the league. Trotz had a lot of trust in Holtby, and it paid off for Washington.
While the 2014-2015 season was a great season for him, the 2015-2016 season was even better. He had 66 games played (48-9-7). He was selected for the All-Star game, as well as the First Team.
He was also given the Vezina Trophy, given to the goaltender who is the best at his position. He had a 2.20 GAA, as well as a .922 save percentage. This rest of this season looks to be even better for the 27-year-old. He current has 38 games under his belt (24-8-4).
The Washington Capitals: A Playoff Favorite
It’s no doubt that the Capitals are a playoff favorite this year. After a couple strong seasons, and disappointing turnouts in the playoffs, they can only hope for more success this year. They are currently holding strong at first place in the Metropolitan Division, right above a very strong Columbus Blue Jackets organization.
They also are the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference, as well as the team with the most points in the NHL. The Minnesota Wild are in second, with 69 points.
The rest of their season does not look too difficult, but it’s never an easy ride, either. Every team will be gunning for the Capitals, hoping to knock them down a couple pegs. Luckily, the Capitals have no injuries to worry about at this point in time, but there’s still a couple of months – crucial months – where an injury could mess up a season.
With the help of their AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, as well as all of their outstanding talent on their NHL roster, the Capitals could possibly end the 17-year drought. Will Ovechkin be able to lead his team to kiss the Silver Cup?