Washington Capitals Look To Capture Their First Stanley Cup
Over the past few years, the Washington Capitals have looked like a team destined to make a Stanley Cup appearance. However, they have always fell short of expectations. The last time the Capitals made it to the Finals, they were led by former All-Stars: Peter Bondra, Adam Oates and Goaltender Olaf Kolzig during the 1998 season. The 1998 Capitals were a 4th seed in the Eastern Conference and made an improbable run to the finals, but were ultimately outmatched by the Detroit Red Wings in a 4-0 sweep.
When the team drafted Alexander Ovechkin with the 1st overall pick in 2004, they hoped he would one day lead them to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. However, despite winning 6 division titles since 2004, the team has never made it past the 2nd round of the Playoffs. Ovechkin has had plenty of success during his career including 3 MVP trophies, but hasn’t been able to get his team over the hump come playoff time. He and the Capitals will be looking to change that this year.
WHY THIS YEAR COULD BE DIFFERENT
The Capitals have had some really good teams recently, but there was always something missing. This year they have their most complete team and you’d be hard-pressed to find any weaknesses. They currently hold a comfortable 16-point lead over the 2nd place Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference. Generating offense and limiting their opposition’s scoring opportunities also hasn’t been an issue as the Washington Capitals, who have scored the most goals (221) and have allowed the fewest (161) in their Conference. The team is well on their way to securing its 2nd President’s Trophy as the NHL’s best regular season team with 50 wins, 105 pts and only 13 games remaining.
While inconsistent goaltending and lack of scoring depth have been issues in the past, this year’s goaltender, Brenden Holtby, leads the league with 42 wins. He is posting a 2.22 GAA, a .922 SV%, and is currently a front-runner for the Vezina Trophy for the League’s best goalie. T.J. Oshie and breakout star, Evgeny Kuznestsov, have added some much needed scoring punch on the 2nd line. Oshie has chipped in with 43 points (21 goals, 22 assists). Kuznestsov leads the team in scoring with 70 points (20 goals, 50 assists) and also has a league-leading +30 rating. The emergence of the young star has really taken the pressure off Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom who no longer have to carry the burden of the entire offense.
Most importantly, the team would not be where they are today without the guidance of coach, Barry Trotz. He has not received much recognition for his past coaching successes, but his accomplishments can not be ignored. He has led the Washington Capitals to achieve the top power-play unit at 27.3% and the third best penalty-kill percentage at 84.4%. He is able to get the most out of his players and deserves consideration for Coach of the Year.
The Capitals have a unique combination of skill and grit. When mixed with great coaching, along with superb goaltending, you have a team poised to make a deep playoff run. They finally have all the pieces to the puzzle, now it’s just a matter of putting it together.