NHL Season Preview: Washington Capitals

My Caps preview is now up over at FanHouse (and I shared a few thoughts with FrankD at Pensburgh as well). If you've been reading this blog for any significant period of time, nothing I've written in those other places will surprise you, but that doesn't mean you're off the hook... go read 'em.

As for last year's FanHouse preview, let's look at one each of my hits and misses:

Hit:
Who's On The Hook: The media may say Ovechkin, the fans may say McPhee and Kolzig would no doubt say Kolzig, but I think it's Hanlon. Leonsis has opened his checkbook, McPhee has written some checks and the talent he has drafted has matured, so the pieces are there for Hanlon to make it all work. A powerplay that finished in the bottom-third of the League last year could be blamed on a lack of personnel, but no longer. A team that struggled to hold leads and win games could be explained away by inexperience, but that reasoning is quickly losing its validity as skaters barely old enough to drink legally in the States have multiple NHL seasons under their belts. It's up to Hanlon to show that he can not only shepherd a young team through tough teams, but coach a talented squad to success.
Nailed it.

Bonus hit:
The Southeast Division probably has the most top-to-bottom parity (read: is the most mediocre) in hockey, and honestly, you could make a reasonable argument for any of the five teams as division winners (or losers). So here's the argument for the Caps: only Carolina has a better top-nine forwards, only Florida has a better number one goalie and only a healthy Tampa has a better top-four defensemen. And here's the kicker -- the Caps have tons of cap room, an owner willing to spend and prospects to burn should they need a piece or two at some point.

You can look at all of the smaller reasons the Caps and their fans are smiling this Fall, but they'll all add up to one big reason in the Spring -- a Southeast Division Championship.
Nailed it, Part Deux.

Miss:
The third line should provide the Caps with both shut-down capability and a decent amount of offense, as left wing Matt Pettinger (a 20-goal scorer two years ago who never really seemed 100% healthy last year) and Chris Clark (a 30-goal scorer last year playing opposite Ovechkin on the top line, who is everything you could want in a captain) will flank the defensive-minded Boyd Gordon, who came into his own as a checker last year, as evidenced by his team-leading plus-10 rating. The trio provide the Caps with their best checking line since Steve Konowalchuk, Jeff Halpern and Ulf Dahlen did the job around the turn of this century.
I had high hopes for that trio. Oh well.

Bonus line combo miss:
Joining Ovechkin and Kozlov on the top line (at least to start the season) will be Tomas Fleischmann, a 23-year-old Czech who has little left to prove at the AHL level, but needs to show that he can stick in the NHL.
That's not my miss, of course, but considering that Hugs' Opening Night top line was Ovechkin-Kozlov-Fleischmann, it's amazing he made it to Thanksgiving.

So my previewing is done and I've said just about all I can say (though that won't stop me from saying more). If you've got any thoughts, concerns, predictions, etc. on the upcoming season, now would be the time to throw 'em in the comments for posterity.

On a sidenote, I can't believe there's another week-and-a-half before the season starts... drop the damn puck already!

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