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Hockey fans are now embracing the warm summer months when the NHL is not in action. For the Washington Capitals, it has been the best summer in the franchise’s history, as they are celebrating their first Stanley Cup.
The Capitals had a busy offseason during the free agency period, but most of the Cup-winning team is still intact and will return next season.
The Capitals will look to win back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships in 2018-19. While it will not be easy, the Capitals will have a team that should remain competitive.
How will the Capitals stay competitive? Here are five reasons why the Capitals should remain a Stanley Cup contender in 2018-19.
Braden Holtby did not have the best regular season in 2017-18, but he rebounded nicely in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The former Vezina Trophy winner will have a new backup netminder this year, as Philipp Grubauer was traded to the Colorado Avalanche at the NHL Draft. If Holtby kicks off the new season like he ended the Stanley Cup postseason, the Capitals should be in very good shape as they roll in to the new year.
Evgeny Kuznetsov has become a star around the NHL. The 26-year old put up career highs with 27 goals and 83 points in 2017-18. Kuznetsov is an offensive threat every time he touches the puck. He brings elite skating, vision, and passing ability to the ice. Kuznetsov was one of the Capitals top postseason performers in the Stanley Cup run. Kuznetsov will be around for the long haul, and will be one of the Capitals top overall players for many years to come.
DEPTH AT VARIOUS POSITIONS
The Capitals have a blueprint that usually leads to success. They are deep at the centre position, with the likes of Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, and Lars Eller. They are deep on the blueline, as John Carlson leads the way for this experienced group. In addition to the depth at centre and on defense, Braden Holtby gives the Capitals plenty of stability and experience in the net. The Capitals have a ton of talent at the key positions on the ice.
QUALITY YOUNG PLAYERS
The Capitals future looks very bright. The Capitals have young players at each position that look very promising. Players like Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Christian Djoos, and Chandler Stephenson are all 24-years of age or younger. These young players have not scratched the surface on their full potentials.
The Capitals were good on special teams last season. Their powerplay finished at 22.5% effective, which was ranked 7th in the NHL. Their penalty kill finished at 80.3% effective, which was ranked 15th in the NHL. The penalty kill could improve a little bit, but the Capitals powerplay has plenty of firepower and can score nicely. The Capitals powerplay is tough to defend with offensive stars like Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, and John Carlson. Special teams are key in games, and the Capitals have been strong in these areas over the last few years.
By: George Foussekis