Ahead of their game against Detroit on Saturday, Washington is having another impressive season. The Capitals are tearing up the Metropolitan Division with a record of 39-11-6. Statistically, this team has been a dream with an 84.5% penalty kill and third highest goals for with 191. Last season’s Vezina winner Braden Holtby has once again been excellent. Washington possesses the lowest goals against in the league with a microscopic 121 (10 less than Minnesota who are 2nd lowest)!
Barry Trotz has laid on the spit and polish and his time is shining brightly. Wait a minute, though, haven’t we heard this before? Remember last season’s Presidents Trophy winning season? All the way through the regular season the Capitals were immaculate. Many expected a glorious post-season to follow suit. It would end in a second-round defeat to eventual Stanley Cup winners Pittsburgh.
This seems to be a recurring theme in Washington. So dazzling to look at during regular season but frustratingly bland when it counts. Since their establishment in 1974, the Caps have made only Stanley Cup final in 1998. For the last decade, they have not progressed beyond the Conference semi-final. What on earth is causing this team to fall short?
Depth quality is definitely not to blame here. Currently, Washington possesses one of the deepest NHL rosters. As usual Captain Marvel, Alex Ovechkin, is lifting hearts with his 51 points. Super Swede, Nicklas Backstrom tops scoring charts with 60 points. Evgeny Kuznetsov has a solid 44 and T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson are also contributing well.
It could be argued that Capitals have just been unlucky in recent years. Last season’s loss to Pittsburgh really blindsided them. In fairness, no-one expected the Penguins to do much at all after an awful regular season. Sadly, it is more a case that although they have power in numbers, they need to think harder. There seems to be a fundamental difficulty in stepping up. The Caps have a team that can go all the way, the only ones who seem to doubt it is themselves.
Washington always appears to skate into the postseason assuming they can coast by on talent alone. Many rude awakenings later, the lesson still hasn’t sunk in. Playing the New York Rangers also seems to be an issue. In three of the last five seasons, the Rangers have defeated them in a seven-game series. Their big confidence seems to shrink the minute things get tough in playoff time.
Barry Trotz is keeping people happy for now, but there is the big question of when precisely are they going to get over this hump? With the trade deadline approaching, it is difficult to say who should be offloaded? This is one team that is perfectly balanced. The fact that Ovechkin has more Hart Trophies than Cup rings is frankly astonishing. Washington will need to bring a Cup home soon or you never know, Ovi could become restless.
If the Capitals have any chance of winning the Cup it is this year. You can’t be an elite NHL side with zero rewards. Before the postseason begins this team needs to knock their heads together and figure a way out. It is one thing to dazzle during the regular season. However, no-one will remember your efforts if your name isn’t engraved on the cup afterwards.