|Outlet||This Week||Last Week||What They're Saying|
|5||-||- (October 7)|
Reason for excitement
The hiring of Barry Trotz as coach quickly proved to be a smart move by first-year GM Brian MacLellan. Trotz's defensive system, which tries to cut the ice into thirds and keep the puck to the side, reduced Washington's goals against from 240-203 his first year.
Alex Ovechkin turned 30 this summer, but he's coming off a 53-goal season and seemed to have no problem playing under Trotz's systems.
Washington signed young goalie Braden Holtby to a long-term contract, which might have been the best news of the offseason. Holtby is coming off an impressive season (41 wins, 2.23 GAA, .923 save percentage), and he had a 1.71 goals-against average in the playoffs.
Washington also added Justin Williams and his playoff clutchness from L.A., and T.J. Oshie from the Blues. Nice pickups there.
Reason for worry
Top center Nicklas Backstrom will be sidelined to start the year because of offseason hip surgery, but it shouldn't be too long. Still, any two- or three-week slump in this league can prove fatal now.
The loss of veteran puck-mover Mike Green could be a loss, but he wasn't worth huge money anymore, and John Carlson could pick up the slack offensively from the blue line. Of course, the reason Caps fans always worry is because something always goes wrong in the playoffs. And, as great a coach as Trotz is, the fact is he's never taken a team beyond the second round of a playoffs.
Plan the parade if...
If Holtby plays with even more confidence now that he's been taken care of long term. He's big, moves well and has proved he can win at least one playoff series (twice) in his career. ... If the penalty kill can be a lot better than 81.2 percent (15th overall). ... If Evgeny Kuznetsov continues to blossom as a young, second-line center. He posted 37 points last season, and if he can get to 50 or 60, Washington will have two dynamic top lines. (October 5)
|4||-||The Capitals are my pick to come out of the East and battle the Ducks for the Stanley Cup. GM Brian MacLellan has done a nice job of tinkering, bringing in T.J. Oshie and three-time Stanley Cup winner Justin Williams. The repaired hip of Nicklas Backstrom and the defense bear watching. Still, the big, fast and skilled Caps are going to be a handful. (October 5)|
|4||-||Adding two top-six forwards in T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams makes the Capitals offense even scarier. This is the most complete team Alex Ovechkin has had around him. (September 30)|
|3||-||Alexander Ovechkin has never played on a better Capitals team, at least on paper. The additions of veteran forwards Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie provides the necessary depth for a deep playoff run. (October 7)|
|3||-||Center Nicklas Backstrom is expected to miss the start of the season while he recovers from hip surgery. Evgeny Kuznetsov will likely be thrust into Backstrom's role at even strength and on the power play in his absence. How Kuznetsov handles it will go a long way toward determining how the Capitals start this season. (October 2)|
|6||-||Justin Williams takes teams to the promised land. It's science. That top six looks amazing, and Braden Holtby is for real. (October 7)|
|4||-||The Capitals always seem to be something less than the sum of their parts, a dangerous team on paper that lacks the intangibles to play up to their potential. So why do we think this is the year that all changes? The additions of Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie up front add depth and clutch scoring, but the reasons for optimism are internal. Braden Holtby is an excellent netminder on the verge of establishing himself as elite. Evgeny Kuznetsov is primed for a breakout season as Washington’s second-line center. And after a year of playing Barry Trotz hockey, Alex Ovechkin is set to turn in his best all-around season yet. Believe it, Caps fans: With the help of a bounce or two going their way, this could be the year. (October 3)|
|3||6||A personal hunch to win it all this year, Washington enters strong up front, on defence and in net, with the crucial extension of Braden Holtby. Nicklas Backstrom is ailing, but the additions of wingers Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie should make an already-exciting team even more fun to watch.
Stanley Cup odds: 18/1 (unchanged) (October 6)
|13||-||Expectations are high for the Capitals this season, after two sharp off-season acquisitions -- signing free agent Justin Williams and trading for T.J. Oshie -- upgraded their right side. Not only that, but Williams has a reputation for coming up big in the postseason (and Game Sevens, specifically), which has long been a problem for the Capitals. Oh, and they still have the league's only 50-goal scorer from last season, Alex Ovechkin, but it looks like he'll be without his regular centre to start the year, as Nicklas Backstrom works his way back from offseason hip surgery.
Key Injuries: C Nicklas Backstrom (hip). (October 6)
|5||-||They will be without Nicklas Backstrom for at least the first few games. (October 6)|
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