The Washington Capitals are entering the final stretch of the season with 17 games in the next 33 days. With just over a quarter of the 56 game season left to play, let’s take a look at the team’s accomplishments thus far and what fans can expect from them between now and May 11.
The Season Thus Far
The Washington Capitals have played well this season. They have gone 25-10-4 and are tied for first place in the Eastern Division. Washington is currently a contender for winning the President’s trophy.
The success for the Capitals so far this season have come at the hands of team efforts. Offensive contributions from across the four lines of forwards and three defensive pairings have been crucial. Offensive zone possession and passing plays have allowed the Capitals to score this season. The Washington powerplay unit has also found success as the five players involved have been able to set up many a goal-scoring opportunity.
Defensive play has seen some strong moments, like the effective penalty kill and the goaltending efforts of Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov. Washington has used the same three defensive pairings for the majority of the season and they are generally reliable. However, defense has also been a weak spot for the Capitals this season.
Giving up goals late in the game or in bunches to opponents has been a problem for Washington this season, especially in recent games. The Capitals have struggled to play a full 60 minutes this season and can be seen giving up preventable goals or struggling to hold leads far too frequently.
On a more positive note, Washington has also seen a good deal of individual success this season. The team currently has seven players with 20 or more points. 16 players on the roster have recorded at least ten points. This is the highest number of players with ten or more points in the NHL, with the league average being 12. Numerous players have also reached milestones in points and career games played.
The Rest of the Season
Defense and improving defensive efforts will hopefully be a priority for the Capitals moving forward. While they have been able to win while allowing their opponents a good number of shots and goals thus far, this strategy is unlikely to lead the team to a Stanley Cup win.
Additionally, relying on the same six defensemen may become problematic. As the team wraps up the season they will play more games in fewer days and will have to travel between back-to-back games. While the veteran defensive core can certainly handle some ice time, they may become fatigued as the season continues and the playoffs begin.
It is possible that head coach Peter Laviolette may choose to switch up his defensive pairings. He has a number of defensive prospects within the Capitals organization that he could call up. Trevor Van Riemsdyk, Jonas Siegenthaler and Alexander Alexeyev are all strong options for Washington should they chose to give any of the current six a break.
Acquiring a defenseman near the trade deadline is also a possibility. Washington has acquired a defenseman at the trade deadline in each of the past six seasons. While the team lacks the cap space to add a big-name player, they may choose to take on an additional defenseman or a defensive forward to help the team out on defense.
On the topic of offense, it is unlikely that the Capitals will make much of a change. Washington has relied on the same group of forwards since mid-February and the group seems to be working well together. While the lines may change a bit from night to night the strategy, playmaking and goalscoring do not change. Fans can expect the Washington Capitals to maintain their exciting offense for the rest of the season and hopefully into the playoffs.
Every game in this year’s shortened season has been and will be important. There are, however, some that will be more exciting to watch.
The Capitals are scheduled to face the longtime rival Pittsburgh Penguins on April 29 and May 1. These games should be physical and exciting as both teams will try to out-muscle their rival and jostle for playoff seeding.
This season has also created a somewhat new rivalry with the Boston Bruins. Washington will face Boston on April 8, April 11, April 18 and May 11 for the season finale. Games with the Bruins have been heated so far this season and both teams bring an array of exceptional players to the table. If you are looking to tune into a Capitals game, these four games are a must-watch.
A three-game series with the New York Islanders between April 22 and April 27 will also be fun to watch. These two division leaders will likely bring playoff level intensity to the series.
The Washington Capitals have a busy month ahead of them, but with their current level of play, it should be an exciting and successful one for the team.