After winning the Stanley Cup in the previous season, the Washington Capitals followed up their 2018 Stanley Cup campaign with another Metropolitan Division winning campaign in 2019. Unfortunately for the Capitals, their Stanley Cup aspirations were cut short by the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the postseason. The Capitals have a lot to be proud of in what the club accomplished over the last year.
After a memorable run in 2018, the Capitals will look to regroup for the 2019-20 season in hopes for a lengthy 2020 postseason run. The Capitals have a roster that is deep in many areas and have a roster that is fully capable of returning to the Stanley Cup Final.
The 2018-19 season featured a new bench boss with Todd Reirden. While Reirden and his staff did an admirable job in their first campaign, the Capitals are looking for more down the road during the Ovechkin era.
The organization is committed to winning, and is committed to putting a product on the ice that can compete and win every game.
The Capitals finished 2019 a bit short on their goals, but this roster is still hungry to win. Todd Reirden brought a different approach to the Capitals bench, and in many ways, the roster seemed improved from the Stanley Cup winning season.
While there were many positives in the 2018-19 campaign, some glaring weaknesses showed throughout the season for the Capitals. The Capitals must work to tweak these weaknesses throughout the offseason and into next season.
Let’s dive in to some of the biggest team weaknesses from 2019:
The Capitals did not deliver their best special teams performances in the last campaign. At times, the penalty killing was atrocious. The defensive zone coverage on the penalty kill was questionable. The penalty killing unit was 78.9% effective, and ranked 24th in the NHL. It improved in the second half of the regular season, but hovered around the bottom five in the early portion.
In recent seasons, the Capitals powerplay unit has always been excellent. The Capitals powerplay unit finished the last campaign at 20.8% effective, and ranked respectably 12th in the NHL. At times, the powerplay sputtered and could not score in critical moments.
Once a strong suit, the Capitals special teams took a little bit of a step back in 2018-19. If the Capitals want to make another deep run at the Stanley Cup, the special teams must return to being great at all moments.
The Capitals were horrendous in the faceoff circle in 2018-19. The club was only 45.7% effective from the dot, which was ranked last in the NHL.
The only consistent centreman in the faceoff dot for the Capitals was Nic Dowd, as he was 51.9% effective in the dot. Lars Eller and Nicklas Backstrom were both below 50% effective inside the dot, and Evgeny Kuzetsov was below 40% effective inside the dot.
Faceoffs are important because they dictate control and pace with the puck. The Capitals are loaded with skilled players that can score goals, so it is important that their top players can gain possession of the puck to generate offense.
It took the coaching staff a little bit to figure out the bottom-six forward rotations. There seemed to be a revolving door of various players in the bottom-six forward rotation.
While having plenty of players that can play depth minutes is good, there was a lack of consistency in the lines here. It seemed like the Capitals depth lines could never seem to grow any chemistry as the regular season went along.
The Capitals are at their best when they have four lines that can continually roll. If the mix of players changes for every game, it is hard for the players to gain chemistry with each other.
The approach to the depth lines could likely change next season, but consistency is always a nice luxury to have here.
By: George Foussekis