We’re basically halfway through the 2018-2019 NHL season so let’s look at how the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals are doing so far in their title defense. Some people say that defending a title is harder than winning the title. You don’t get to sneak by people anymore, every night the team you’re playing against is motivated to beat the defending champions.
First off, let’s look at the notable players.
It’s the Washington Capitals when you think of them, you think of Alexander Ovechkin. After finally getting to lift Lord’s Stanley he went on a summer of binge drinking and partying. Only to come back and have one of the fastest starts of his career including back to back hat tricks in December. He currently leads the NHL in goals and is well on his way to another Rocket Richard.
He doesn’t play alongside Ovechkin very often anymore, but they are Powerplay maestros together. Nicklas Backstrom has routinely been one of the leagues most underrated players because Ovechkin is always in the spotlight. Backstrom is on pace for almost 80+ assists this year and if Ovechkin wants to maintain his hot scoring streak, Backstrom will play a pivotal point in that.
The Quarterback of one of the leagues best Powerplays and in my opinion a Norris Trophy candidate from year to year. It’s a shame he hasn’t won one already but if he keeps playing as he has, he’ll be a candidate again at the end of the year as he’s on a point per game pace.
Washington currently sits fourth in the entire NHL in points with a 23-10-3 record. Well on their way to yet another Metropolitan Division championship, Columbus is right on their tail, but I don’t believe the Blue Jackets will keep up in the long-term.
Washington is currently 3rd in the NHL in Goals For with 132.
Washington is currently 23rd in the NHL in Goals Allowed with 104.
Washington is currently 7th in the NHL in Powerplay Percentage with 23.48%.
Washington is currently 25th in the NHL in Penalty Kill Percentage with 77.10%.
They aren’t near the top in every statistic like they have been in previous years, but they are finding ways to win hockey games, regardless who’s in net. Thankfully they’re scoring lots of goals this year because Holtby once again isn’t playing like a Vezina Trophy winner as he has in the past.
WHAT THEY NEED TO DO TO REPEAT
Washington needs to play better hockey in front of their goaltender, thank goodness we’re scoring goals at an unbelievable rate this year because we’re allowing them at an unbelievable rate, especially for a team that has a Vezina Trophy winner in net and a Norris Trophy candidate in front of him, albeit even if Carlson is a candidate due to his offensive work.
Ovechkin is on an absolute tear as he’s on pace for over 60 goals once again. The old man still has it, he may even be getting better. He can’t beat people on the rush anymore, nor can he dangle his way around multiple defenders. However, his shot is the best in the league. By far. The only comparable I can see is Patrik Laine. I just wrote a piece a couple weeks ago explaining why I think Ovechkin will eventually break Gretzky’s record, there is a lot of talk around it right now and I feel like he’s motivated more than ever. If Washington wants to repeat. It goes through him.
Secondary scoring has been a huge factor for Washington this season, both Jakub Vrana and Brett Connolly are having career years, which is nice because Andre Burakovsky has been near useless for the Capitals this season.
I personally think they’ll be able to repeat. They will more than likely have to go through Tampa Bay again, who is by far the best team in the league in my opinion. I’m not worried about Toronto, or anybody else in the Metro Division. The Western Conference is weak and has been for a while. Whoever comes out of the Atlantic will be facing the Capitals in the Eastern Conference Final and the winner of that will be the Stanley Cup Champion.
Will Alexander Ovechkin’s liver be able to handle another summer long bender? Will a second championship cement him as one of the top 10 players of all time? Is he already the best European player in NHL history? There are lots of questions to be answered by the end of this season.
If you’d like to read my article about whether or not Ovechkin can break Gretzky’s record you can find it HERE.
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