It has been a summer filled with Lord Stanley for the Washington Capitals. The Capitals have been celebrating the franchise’s first Stanley Cup during the long, warm summer months. With training camp about a month away, the Capitals will look to defend their Stanley Cup with hopes of winning two straight.
The Capitals made a few personnel changes during the offseason, but still have most of their Cup winning team intact for 2018-19.
Even though the Capitals achieved Stanley Cup glory in 2018, they will face some challenges as they head into training camp. What challenges will the Capitals face as they head into training camp?
NEW BENCH BOSS AND STAFF
Barry Trotz departed the Capitals in the offseason, and became the Head Coach of the New York Islanders. Todd Reirden is the new bench boss in Washington, and he has a pair of new assistant coaches with Scott Arniel and Reid Cashman.
The Capitals are very familiar with Todd Reirden, so the adjustment should not be too much for the club. While there is a different voice, the message will be very similar. The Capitals were well structured defensively under the eye of Trotz, and it will be interesting to see if Reirden keeps that same hockey philosophy.
SOLVING THE 4TH LINE
With Jay Beagle out of the lineup, the Capitals will have to fill a 4th line centre void during Training Camp. They brought in Nic Dowd as a free agent, and he will likely contend for this spot. Travis Boyd and Chandler Stephenson will also be in the mix to fill this void for the Capitals.
Beagle was a solid penalty killer and faceoff specialist for the Capitals, so the Capitals must find a suitable replacement in this role on the 4th line.
FILLING THE BACKUP GOALTENDER SPOT
With Philipp Grubauer now in Colorado, the Capitals will look to find a replacement for him. Grubauer appeared in 35 games for the Capitals in the regular season, so the Capitals must get a similar workload from their new backup netminder.
Pheonix Copley is the front runner to take the job behind Braden Holtby. Copley, 26, has only appeared in 2 NHL games, both with the St. Louis Blues. Copley’s limited NHL experience might come into play as the Capitals inch toward the spring. The Capitals have limited cap space available, and there is still the possibility of the club adding a veteran netminder on a cheap deal.
AVOID THE STANLEY CUP HANGOVER
The dreaded Stanley Cup hangover is very real. The Capitals need to be weary of this in their first 10-15 games. The Capitals need to avoid having a slow October, and early November. With teams like Pittsburgh, Vegas, and Toronto right off the bat early, the Capitals must focus so they do not fall behind early in the standings. The Capitals must practice hard, and must give effort in every game. The Capitals will have the target on their backs, and every team they will face will give them their best shot.
SPECIAL TEAMS ADJUSTMENTS
One area the Capitals could improve on is the penalty kill. The Capitals penalty kill was very average during the 2017-18 regular season. They were 80.3% effective on the kill, which was 15th in the NHL.
Ideally, the Capitals will want to get their penalty kill into the top 10 in the NHL if they want to continue to win their close games. The Capitals also need some of their younger players to step in and fill penalty killing roles. Nic Dowd, Chandler Stephenson, Travis Boyd, and Nathan Walker are some players the Capitals might use more on their penalty killing units.
By: George Foussekis