GDHQNHL15_2pg-Washington Capitals 2

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spring, will have some big-time explaining to do. The holdovers are pretty steady, but depth will continue to be a problem. Mike Green is a steady force who can shoot well from the point and also stand up enemy forwards at the other end. Young John Carlson has great size and a similar ability to provide cover with his shot on offense. Adding the two of them to Niskanen and Orlik should be a good start toward making Washington better on defense. In Trotz’s structure system, having two-way defensemen can help. There is hope that 23-year old Dmitry Orlov, who had a plus-11 rating last year in 54 games, will be ready to contribute at the beginning of the season. He is recovering from a wrist injury. Karl Alzner is another big man on the blue line and showed himself to be a good passer, along with a physical presence, last season. Connor Carrick, a 20-year old pup, and 23-year old Nate Schmidt saw some action last year and might get a chance at more time in 2014-15, if the Caps can’t come up with three solid tandems. Goaltending This is a problem area and could preclude a deep postseason run—if the Caps make it to the playoffs. Last year, Braden Holtby posted a lackluster 2.85 GAA and had a mediocre .915 save percentage. It doesn’t matter how many goals Ovechkin scores if the back line of defense isn’t able to stand tall. Holtby’s 2.85 number was a sizeable rise from his 2.58 figure in 2012-13, so there is hope he can rebound, but even that mark doesn’t put him in the discussion for the Vezina Trophy. Because of that, the Caps imported Justin Peters, who has been a backup with Carolina during his five years in the league, to compete with Philipp Grubauer for the backup spot. Neither is a big threat to supplant Holtby, so it’s not as if Washington can declare that its goaltending problems are over. More than likely, Trotz will hope that the team’s upgraded defense and potent attack will be able to carry the team forward. Power Play Although last year’s 23.37 percent conversion rate was down from 2012-13’s remarkable 26.83 figure, it was still stout and shows exactly how much trouble the Caps can cause for rivals on the advantage. It begins with Ovechkin, whose 24 power-play goals make him the most fearsome force in the league when the Caps are up a man or two. He has the ability to exploit enemy weaknesses and convert. He may not replicate his 2013-14 number, but he gives the Caps a huge weapon on the power play. If Brouwer didn’t play with Ovechkin, he might not have 12 powerplay goals, since enemy penalty kill units might pay more attention to him. But he is productive on the man advantage and gives Washington a dangerous second option. Backstrom, Ward and Johansson are also dangerous on the power play, and each scored six times last year. Carlson is solid on the point, as evidenced by his five goals. Penalty Kill If the Caps are going to continue to commit as many penalties that lead to man advantages for rivals—they had the eighth-most last year— then they’ll have to do better than 16th in the league on the penalty kill. Expect the arrivals of Niskanen and Orpik to make immediate impacts here. They, Carlson and Alzner will likely be the defensemen on the kill. The most interesting thing to look at is how the forwards perform in this area, now that Trotz has taken over. He will likely have a much more aggressive approach to those positions when the Caps are a man down. There has to be a philosophical change, because the same Nicklas Backstrom forwards are likely to Patrick McDermott/NHL/Getty Images be on the kill units, and they weren’t very good last year. Ward, Brouwer, Laich and Chimera are the likely front line performers up front, and they will benefit from Trotz’s new approach. Prediction As long as Ovechkin is firing away from the wing, the Caps have the potential to be dangerous. The question is whether Washington can be a complete team, or if it will continue to be a high-scoring outfit that can’t convert when the games get tighter, and the stakes get higher. The Capitals will make the playoffs, but don’t expect a deep run. Scoreboard 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 PLAYOFF FINISH DNQ Conf QF Conf SF Conf SF Conf QF REGULAR SEASON 38-30-14 27-18-3 42-32-8 48-23-11 54-15-13 POINT TOTAL 90 57 92 107 121 SHOOTOUT RECORD 10-11 3-0 4-4 5-6 5-6 GOALS SCORED 235 149 222 224 318 GOALS ALLOWED 240 130 230 197 233 POWER PLAY % 23.37 26.83 16.73 17.49 25.24 PENALTY KILL % 82.04 77.91 81.58 85.62 78.80


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