While it has been a long summer for most Capitals fans, summer is slowly winding down and NHL training camps open within a matter of a few weeks.
The Capitals are coming off a disappointing season, where they fell short in the 2nd round in the 2017 NHL Playoffs. Since the Capitals have undergone some changes over the summer, they will have a fresh look in their lineup.
While the Capitals are not likely favored to win the Metropolitan Division or Presidents’ Trophy again, they could still contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. While they have many goals that they need to replace, they will have plenty of competition internally for spots in their lineup.
For the Capitals to carry their regular-season success from the past over into next season, here are 5 things the Capitals will need to remain a playoff caliber club:
The Capitals might see a drop-off in goal scoring, so that means the goaltending will need to be strong for the Capitals to have continual success. The Capitals had the strongest goaltending tandem last year with Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer in between the pipes. Both goaltenders posted excellent goaltending numbers last season, and both goaltenders will be back for the 2017-18 season. If there is an area of the club that Capitals fans feel confident about, it is the goaltending tandem.
CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE YOUNG STARS
The Capitals will need to replace goal scoring in their lineup, and they must look from within to find it. The Capitals have established young players like Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson, who are still looking to break out in their young careers. The Capitals will also have new players like Jakub Vrana, who will also need to step up and replace some of the goals lost. On the blueline, the Capitals will need to fill some holes. The Capitals will search for young blueliners internally to play next to Brooks Orpik and John Carlson. These young defensemen will also have to show that they can play on special teams and fill some roles left by former Capitals Karl Alzner, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Nate Schmidt.
Health was a bright spot for the Capitals in 2016-17. They were one of the teams that had the fewest man-games lost last season. Having good health goes a long way in the NHL, especially if a club qualifies for the postseason.
STRONG SPECIAL TEAMS
The Capitals have improved their special teams units in the Barry Trotz era. The Capitals were in the NHL’s top 10 in powerplay and penalty kill efficiency a season ago. Since the Capitals might see a drop-off in 5-on-5 goal production next season, the special teams will need to remain strong so the Capitals can close out tight games.
CORE GROUP KEEPS UP THE SAME PRODUCTION
If the Capitals core group keeps up the production, there is no reason the Capitals cannot remain competitive. The Capitals will need to have productive seasons from Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and T.J. Oshie so that the younger group of players can continue to grow their games. If the core group can lead the way for the Capitals in scoring, that should rub off on the rest of the lineup, and that should give the Capitals some much-needed secondary scoring.
By: George Foussekis