GDHQNHL15_2pg-Washington Capitals 1

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Offense The Caps were only 11th in the NHL in goals scored last year, but you can’t blame that on right winger Alex Ovechkin, who scored 51 of them, including 10 game winners and a ridiculous 24 on the power-play. Now comfortable on the right, Ovechkin is an old-style classic scorer who isn’t going to play much defense (minus-35 rating) or pass that often (28 assists). But when it comes to lighting the lamp, there is none better anywhere. The Caps have some depth around him, and management thought enough of it to refrain from making any substantial offseason moves to upgrade the forward line. So, Washington heads into the 2014-15 season with the same core as it had last year, when it didn’t qualify for the postseason. There must be plenty of confidence in new coach Barry Trotz’s system, because failing to add someone to the group that’s returning could lead to some problems, particularly if the defense doesn’t pick up. It’s fairly easy to pile up assists while centering a line with Ovechkin on it, but Nicklas Backstrom (61 assists) isn’t just a by-product of his linemate’s talent. He’s a good passer who can also score some and is solid on the power play. Veteran Joel Ward had 24 goals last year and is a solid two-way player, while Troy Brouwer enjoyed his finest sniping season a year ago by scoring 25 goals, 12 of which came on the advantage. Jason Chimera turned 35 in May, but he’s good for some scoring pop (14 goals in 2013-14), and wing Eric Fehr has the ability to score on occasion. But it will be interesting to see if the Caps miss center Mikhail Grabovski, who was allowed to leave in free agency and landed with the Islanders. He’s not a huge producer, but he can be a solid second-line center. One player who bears watching is 22-year old center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who showed he could score during an abbreviated debut last year. Defense How badly did Washington want to upgrade its D? Badly enough to commit a total of $67.75 million to Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik and lure them to D.C. from Pittsburgh. They will be expected to fortify immediately a defense corps that played a big role in the Caps’ finishing 22nd in goals allowed last year. Orpik brings immediate pop to the blue line and led the Pens in hits last year. Niskanen had 10 goals and a plus-33 rating last year, so he should help at both ends and serve as a puck mover from the Washington zone. It’s not stretching things to say that if these two don’t get it done, GM Brian MacLellan, who was promoted to the post last EASTERN CONFERENCE METROPOLITAN DIVISION Alex Ovechkin Washington CAPITALS Key Additions: D Matt Niskanen; D Brooks Orpik; RW Chris Conner; G Justin Peters; RW Kris Newbury; LW Tim Kennedy Key Subtractions: C Mikhail Grabovski; G Jaroslav Halak; LW Dustin Penner; D Tyson Strachan Strengths: Abundance of offensive firepower Weaknesses: Goaltending, defense Katherine Frey/The Washington Post


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