Get to Know a Rival: Washington Capitals

Photo credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)

Photo credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)

Author’s Note: This post is NOT written by a member of the Pattison Avenue staff but rather a blogger for the team we’re exploring. Today’s guest author is Becca Henschel from the Caps blog Japers Rink.

What was WSH’s biggest addition this off season?

It’s tough to decide whether the biggest addition was T.J. Oshie or Justin Williams… so let’s call it a tie and go with both.

The Caps’ biggest offseason need was forward depth, particularly when it came to the spot on the top line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom; by bringing in Oshie and Williams, that need was addressed and at a relatively low cost. Now the Caps not only have six legitimate top-six guys in the lineup, but they also have options of how they’re deployed as the season goes on (with a couple of players further down the depth chart who are capable of filling in as needed).

What was WSH’s biggest loss this off season?
Mike Green. He’s taken a lot of (mostly unfair) criticism over his career, but Green is a top-notch defenseman with insane skating and shooting ability, and he has the ability to be a game-changer if used in the right situations. It’s tough to see a homegrown talent leave after a decade, and the Caps’ blueline and the power play will have a totally different look without Green in the lineup.

Metropolitan Division Rankings
Caps – Because I’m a filthy, biased homer. Also because the Caps – on paper, at least – have one of the best lineups they’ve had in a good, long time. They’ve got great goaltending in Braden Holtby, a defense that’s solid from top to bottom, and forward depth that could do some damage on the scoresheet. They also have a coaching staff that knows what it’s doing, a lethal power play and a sense throughout the organization that their window won’t be open much longer.

Rangers – Not sure they will be quite as good as they were last year, and I think the losses of St. Louis and Hagelin are going to hurt them more than people want to admit… but they’ve still got McDonagh and Lundqvist and a pretty solid team from top to bottom. The Caps and Rangers were two of the League’s best teams from December on last season, and their second-round playoff series was incredibly close; this should be a fun battle this year.

Blue Jackets – We got a glimpse of just how good the Blue Jackets could be when everyone was healthy towards the end of last year, and that was before they added Brandon Saad via trade over the summer. Their defense is still a little suspect, but they’ve got the potential (if they can stay healthy) to be a very scary team.
Penguins – The addition of Phil Kessel was (annoyingly) a good one for the Penguins, after years of saddling Crosby with middling, mediocre wingers. So yeah, Kessel’s going to get his points and Crosby’s going to get his… but man, is that roster ever top heavy and that defense insanely young. Losing Ehrhoff and Martin over the summer would be less of a big deal if they hadn’t just lost Niskanen and Orpik the year before, and now they’re relying on Marc-Andre Fleury to duplicate a career year. What could go wrong?

Islanders – It feels strange to put the Islanders so far down in the rankings, but the Metropolitan Division is going to be insanely tough this year and it’s hard to say that the Isles did enough to improve what was already a pretty good lineup in order to keep up with the rest of the crew. The blueline depth isn’t quite what it needs to be, and as good as Halak was last season, he’s always had a tendency to run hot and cold. That said… the way the Metro is shaping up, the team is still good enough that they may be able to get into the postseason as a Wild Card (or even to unseat one of the other teams for a division spot).

Flyers – Having Giroux and Voracek (and Simmonds and Couturier and Schenn) up front should probably be able to score a good number of goals. The problem is that the defense isn’t nearly up to the same level, and in a division (and a conference) where there’s no shortage of elite goal-scorers, that could be an issue – even if Steve Mason is able to continue his resurgence as a good-to-great goaltender, as he’s been over the past few years.

Devils – The Devils struggled to score goals last year, and that was before losing a good chunk of their forwards in one way or another over the summer. Some of those losses were probably addition by subtraction, with a lot of the aging veterans being moved out to make room for prospects, and perhaps the Devils are on the right track to get back into it… but they’re not close to being there yet, even if Cory Schneider continues to dominate between the pipes.

Hurricanes – Ah, Carolina… a team that has been stuck in rebuild mode since winning a Cup a decade ago. They’re going to have a tough time scoring goals again this year, particularly after jettisoning guys like Tlusty and Semin, and bringing in Kris Versteeg isn’t going to help that too much. They’ve got smart hockey minds running the team, and a couple of blue-chip prospects in the system, but they’re still a long way off from being in the mix in the Division or the East as a whole.

What is your opinion of the moves the Flyers made this off season?
I’m still not entirely sure what the Flyers are going for, to be honest. They’ve added some interesting players, at least; Gagner was a decent addition to shore up the forwards, and Michal Neuvirth can be a legit backup to Steve Mason, but the jury’s still out for me until I see what the biggest addition – the new coach – can do with all of the pieces he’s inherited.

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