By SEAN KINSLOW
The Washington Capitals are coming off one of the most successful regular season campaigns in the history of the organization. In the 2015-2016 season, the Capitals won the Metropolitan Division and had the best record in the entire National Hockey League.
The team is also coming off one of the most disappointing postseason performances in recent memory.
A second round exit at the hands of a hated rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins, ultimately ended the Capitals season much sooner than fans, experts and the team had hoped.
The Capitals roster remains mostly intact from last year’s historic performance. Russian superstar Alexander Ovechkin, who scored the most goals in the NHL last season for the sixth time in his career, still captains the team.
Braden Holtby, voted the league’s best goalie last season, will be back between the pipes this year and will look to continue his dominating stretch of goalkeeping. The team’s most notable offseason move was the acquisition of Lars Eller.
Eller played last season with the Montreal Canadians and is expected to line up as the Capitals’ third-line center. Jason Chimera, a fan favorite, will not be back with the team this season, as he signed with the New York Islanders this summer.
Excitement for the start of the 2016-2017 season is building around the Washington D.C. area, including here on campus at Mary Washington. Fans seem to be optimistic and are hoping for another dominating regular season, but more importantly postseason success and a chance to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Capitals fan and senior biology and geology double major Courtland Lyle is excited to see the season get underway. “I’m hoping for as much success as they had during last year’s regular
season,” Lyle said. “I’d just like to see [that success] follow through to the playoffs this time.”
When asked if the team had the skill to win the Stanley Cup, Lyle responded, “I’d like to think so. They have always been strong so I see no reason why they can’t.”
If the Capitals can continue their winning ways from last season and bring a level of intensity to the playoffs the team should be headed towards more success. In the playoffs, the Capitals will need to rely on a more balanced attack than in past seasons.
They will need contributions from all four lines, not just the duo of Ovechkin, and star center Nicklas Backstrom. Goalkeeping is perhaps the most important key for any team in the postseason. A special performance by Holtby would go a long way in getting the Capitals back to their first Stanley Cup finals since 1998. The Capitals will ultimately need to get over the stigma that the team cannot perform in the playoffs.
The Washington Capitals open their season on the road against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The puck drops Thursday, Oct. 13 at 8 p.m. The game will be televised on NBCSN, Mary Washington Channel 69.
Season Prediction: 2nd in the Metropolitan Division, Eastern Conference Finals loss