The Washington Capitals are having a fun summer, as they are celebrating their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. The Capitals had a tough road to the cup in 2017-18, but they overcame plenty of playoff obstacles and fought through the adversity.
The Capitals will have the target on their back in 2018-19 as the defending Stanley Cup Champions. The NHL has a tough Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference, and the Capitals will be challenged every night next season.
Which teams pose the biggest threat to the Washington Capitals? Which five teams are going to be very evenly matched with the Capitals in 2018-19?
The Capitals finally got over the Penguin hurdle in the second round of the playoffs in 2018. The Capitals edged out the Penguins by 5 points in the regular season standings, and it was neck and neck for a while. The Penguins are loaded still, with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby leading the way as some of the NHL’s top scorers. The Penguins are deep at every position, and are well coached. The Penguins will likely challenge the Capitals for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division in 2018-19.
The Flyers were a pesky bunch against the Capitals in 2017-18. The Capitals went 1-2-1 against their Metropolitan Division foes. The Flyers have shown improvement, and they will likely be hanging around the playoff picture next season. They brought back forward James van Riemsdyk, who will likely give them a big boost in scoring. This Flyers group is young, but they are trending upward.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
With John Tavares now in the mix, the Maple Leafs have a star-studded lineup up the middle of the ice. Auston Matthews and John Tavares are two of the best centres in the NHL today, and the Leafs will be scoring plenty of goals for years to come. While the Leafs still may be a little weak on the blueline, they have an experienced coach with a winning pedigree in Mike Babcock.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
The Lightning have an experienced group, as this current group has been to the Stanley Cup Final before. The Lightning gave the Capitals a run for their money as they won 3 straight games against them in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Between Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Victor Hedman, this group is talented at all positions. The Lightning should be considered a favorite to win the Atlantic Division.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
The Jackets give the Capitals whenever they face each other. After going down 0-2 to the Jackets in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals rallied back and took the series in 6 games. The Capitals went 3-1 in the regular season set, but both teams scored 12 goals apiece in the series set. The games with the Jackets are usually very tight. Like the Capitals, the Jackets have some talented Russian players with Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. With excellent goaltending and some young playmakers up front, the Jackets are becoming a big-time threat in the Metropolitan Division.
By: George Foussekis