Metropolitan Division Preview: Washington Capitals

Ovi only knows dog paddle!

The Philadelphia Flyers would like to formally welcome the Washington Capitals back to the neighborhood. Sure guys, we know it’s got a terrible name. We’re working on it.

For those of you unaware, the Capitals and Flyers used to be in the Patrick Division together. From 1979 to 1993, the Flyers and Caps were divisional rivals until the NHL decided to shake things up. In fact, the last version of the Patrick Division was last year’s Atlantic Division, minus the Caps.

The Caps come from the former Southeast Division, AKA a complete cakewalk, or easy pickins. They thrived on the weak competition of the Southeast, so the interesting storyline for Washington is whether or not they can replicate their success with considerably tougher regular opposition.

City Facts

You might have heard of Washington D.C. because it is so full of pork and pork barrel spending hahahahaha (I retire from blogging and formally apologize).

President Barack Obama has never been a to a Capitals game. Vice President Joe Biden has been to a number of Flyers games. I’m just putting that out there.

Worst Jersey

The Capitol Critters jersey and the eagle jersey from that late 90s/early 2000s era wasn’t the Caps finest hour. Truth be told, they’re not the worst jerseys, but they’re just wrong for a team that should be wearing red, white, and blue.

Key Players

Alexander Ovechkin – Ovi )))))))))))) has struggled a bit since his early years in the league, where he was constantly competing with Sidney Crosby for the title of BEST PLAYER EVAR*, but he seemed to find himself in the second half of the last shortened season. Of course, struggling for Ovechkin means under 100 points. The guy’s career-low season goal total is 32!

Ovechkin’s biggest criticism is how he performs in the playoffs. The Caps also always seem to lose in a game 7 under Ovi. The big questions are focused on his leadership and defense. Ovechkin is always in the spotlight and under a magnifying lens in Washington.

*for NBC’s ratings

Mike Green – Mike Green was the top offensive defenseman in the NHL a few years back, but has since fallen off due to annual injury issues. Washington is a completely different team with a healthy, effective Green. Which probably won’t happen, because the dude is made of glass at this point. He did have a bit of a resurgence last season with 26 points in 35 games. Maybe owner Ted Leonsis paid for cybernetic parts in the offseason.

Nicklas Backstrom – Backstrom might be the Caps’ under-the-radar star for the casual NHL fan. He’s a point-per-game player throughout his career and apparently has enough clout in D.C. to appear in goofy Geico commercials (but that’s not exactly saying much now, is it?).

Mikhail Grabovski – Grabovski fills the void of “enigmatic Russian” left behind since Alexander Semin’s departure for the Carolina Hurricanes. The former Maple Leaf didn’t sign until late in the offseason, but things could work out very well for the Caps if Grabovski can rebound from a tough, shortened season.

Braden Holtby – Holtby was a hot commodity coming out of the 2012 playoffs, where he posted a .935 save percentage and a 1.95 GAA and almost led the Capitals to an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. He did pretty well for himself in his first season as full-time starter, posting a .920 save percentage and 2.58 GAA. Holtby’s continued development is going to be key to the Caps having a successful season.

Coach

Adam Oates - Tremendous former NHLer and Capital. Holds the title of worst Flyers rental of all time. Oates is very much an offensive based coach and the opposite of his predecessor Dale Hunter. He also looks like a Vulcan. His passing skills indicate he might actually be one.

Key Offseason Move

Signing Mikhail Grabovski to a one year, $3 million deal. Grabovski was a solid player for the Maple Leafs and should fit in nicely as the Caps’ 2nd line center. He’s essentially replacing Mike Ribeiro, who left for the desert to sign with the Coyotes in the offseason.

Division prediction: Fourth

The Caps are so weird. They can really finish anywhere in this division. Fourth sounds just about right to me though. Much of it falls on the health of Ovechkin and Green. If they’re up to the task, Washington will have one of the top regular season teams in the East again. They’ll probably find a way to lose a 7-game series come playoff time regardless.