Tonight, the Washington Capitals face off against the Boston Bruins to kick off their 2022-23 season! The Washington Capitals have been a consistent playoff team for a while, as they have now made the playoffs for eight straight seasons, tied with the Nashville Predators for the 2nd longest active streak in the NHL. Most people are saying this team is going to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2014, because of their injuries (learn later), and the lack of youth they have. What do I think this team will do this season? Let’s, get into this!
Left Wing Center Right Wing
Alex Ovechkin Evgeny Kuznetsov Connor Brown
Aliaksei Protas Dylan Strome Anthony Mantha
Marcus Johansson Lars Eller T.J. Oshie
Connor Sheary Nic Dowd Garnet Hathaway
John Carlson, Martin Fehervary
Dmitry Orlov, Nick Jensen
Erik Gustafsson, Trevor van Riemsdyk
So that is what Washington looks like (for now). The addition of Darcy Kuemper at goalie is going to be great for this team. Instead of Ilya Samsonov (3.02 goals allowed per game) and Vitek Vanecek (2.67 goals allowed per game) splitting as the top goalie, Washington got one of the best goalies in the game in Darcy Kuemper! He is coming off of a Stanley Cup run with Colorado where in the postseason, he allowed just less than 2.4 goals per game per game while saving 90% of shots. He saved 92% of those shots during the regular season. He will upgrade this team, and give the offense more opportunities, which they will need without Backstrom and Wilson.
During last year’s postseason, both Tom Wilson and Nicklas Backstrom went down with what will end up being injuries that will sideline both of them until most likely April, which is almost the entire regular season. Wilson had a career year with Washington last season with 52 points, making his first ever All star team. Backstrom did what he’s been doing with Ovechkin for over a decade, when he was healthy. Because he has missed a lot of time with injury over the past for seasons.
Because of this, young guys like Aliaksei Protas and Connor McMichael will have to step up huge in new big roles, and Hendrick Lappiere may get his first huge role in the pros. The Capitals also signed Connor Brown after a 39 point season, to add depth at forward. They also signed Dylan Strome after a 48 point season. They still have Conor Sheary and Anthony Mantha as well, to give them even more depth at forward.
But the star power on Washington is amazing! Even without Wilson and Backstrom, they have a really talented core. Evgeny Kuznetsov had 78 points, the 2nd most he’s ever had in his career. He has been a great playmaker for Washington, and his speed and ability to set up wingers in key in this teams success. John Carlson is one of the best defensive players in hockey, as he is coming off of a season where he had 71 points, the 2nd most of his career. T.J. Oshie, when healthy, is in my opinion an all star caliber wing. Having him on the team is important.
And then of course, you got Alexander Ovechkin, who despite not being one of the premier top players in the NHL, is still one of the best in the league. He just had another 50 gaol season (the 8th of his career), and had his highest assists total since 2011, finishing with 90 points, the most he’s had since 2010, where he won the Pearson award. Ovechkin has opened up his game to be more of an all around player, but what he’s able to do putting the puck in the net is spectacular!
He is just 21 goals shy of becoming 2nd all time in goals (now Gordie Howe at 801), and he should accomplish that pretty easily if he doesn’t get severe injuries. I think he has another 50+ goal season in him, and he may have his most goals since 2009, when he won the Hart, if his other role players can’t score enough. This is entire team’s potential is based off what Ovechkin can do this season, and I think he’ll be highly successful!
Now that we know the team, what can they realistically do? I mean, they haven’t won a playoff series since they won the Stanley Cup back in June of 2018. This team’s talent, has not meant success since that Stanley Cup. Peter Laviolette came in to replace Todd Reirden after two highly disappointing seasons, but Laviolette has only won three playoff games in his first two seasons with the team.
And they’re division only makes things harder. The Capitals were not even picked by one of 27 ESPN reporters to win the Metropolitan. The Hurricanes and Rangers are most likely locks for the top two teams in the division as long as they aren’t injured. The Penguins seem to always get in, as they’ve made the postseason 16 straight years, a stretch that is ranked towards the top of NHL playoff streaks in NHL history! They’ll most likely make it again, as Crosby is still playing consistently great hockey!
I also expect the Devils to have a very good season, as it only seems a matter of time before their young core breaks out for an amazing season. I expect the Islanders, Blue Jackets and Flyers to possibly all have bounce back seasons, with new head coaches. I think the Capitals do have a chance to even sneak into the top three, but it will be tough, considering the division their in!
Season prediction: I think the Washington Capitals will make the playoffs again! I think they’ll find a way to sneak in. But I don’t think they’ll do much come postseason time. I think there are just so many other talented teams, that are younger and more durable, and it puts teams like the Capitals and Penguins at a disadvantage. I do think though Ovechkin will score 50+ goals for the ninth time in his career. I would love as well to see the cup, back in D.C.! Rock the Red!