Friday, September 16, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: Washington Capitals

If you could compare the Washington Capitals to any other team in sports, the best comparison may be drawn with  the San Diego Chargers. Great in the regular season, yet they can never quite break through in the postseason, and last year was just more of the same. This offseason though, George McPhee made some moves that may dramatically alter the perception of this team, and they are one of the favorites to hoist the cup. Now, will they be burned by the expectations?

Strengths: This team is so deep at almost every position, that it makes many wonder why they can't get past the second round of the postseason. The big guns haven't changed in Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, and Alexander Semin are still there, and they will still score big as they always have. They resigned Brooks Laich and Mike Knuble, who could be good primary scorers on any other teams, but here they are great secondary scorers. Mike Green is still in district, and he hopes to rebound from a sub-par season. They added some grit and toughness this offseason in Troy Brouwer and Joel Ward, as well as Roman Hamrlik, and Dennis Wideman from an in season trade with Florida from last season. But the biggest acquisition overall was Tomas Vokoun, who they not only got on the cheap, but they have a proven regular season big time goaltender with fewer questions than any goalie they have had since Olaf Kolzig. However, the playoffs have eluded him because of where he played, so he'll feel the weight of higher expectations this year more than any other.

Weaknesses: As good as this team is, there are still questions. Will they be able to meet the lofty expectations this season more than any other? Will Tomas Vokoun prove to be the goalie that the Caps needed to take the next step more than their plethora of young goaltenders? Will they finally be able to breakthrough in the postseason? All of these questions are going to possibly take a toll on the team's psyche, and it will be interesting to see how Bruce Boudreau deals with them.

Any Help Coming? RW Evgeny Kuznetsov is their best prospect. He still has a lot to learn, but the talent is there to become a breakout star. He has a good mixture of scoring skill and physical ability, and he can create with his supreme skating abilities and other ones too. G Braden Holtby is the best goaltending prospect they have, and he has the size and style to be a great goaltender in this league some day. D Dmitri Orlov is a good offensive defenseman, who needs to round out his skills some.

Outlook: This team has a ton of expectations to meet, and they are incredibly high. The team has amazing depth and may be the deepest top to bottom in the NHL, and their regular season prowess will not be in question. What will though, is their mental toughness, especially when the calendar turns to April and May.

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