Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Washington Capitals 2009-2010 Preview

The Caps enter the 2009-2010 season coming off of back to back Southast Division championships. Although winning the division and earning home ice in the first round is certainly an accomplishment to be admired, the Caps are looking to take home Lord Stanley's Cup for this first time in franchise history this year.

Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Nicklas Backstrom lead a dynamic offense that was third in the league in scoring last year. Ovechkin is one of the greatest players this league has ever seen and has won the hart trophy (the NHL's equivalent to an MVP award) the last two seasons. Michael Nylander is back, for now, talks of Nylander either getting traded or released have been ongoing the entire off season. Nylander was brought in from the Rangers two years ago but has looked more like Happy Gilmore than his former self. 37 year old Mike Knuble was brought in from the Flyers in July to help solidify their second line. Losing Donald Brashear certainly hurts from the team's toughness standpoint, but they are not losing out on much scoring. The biggest question mark in the offensive zone is team captain Chris Clark. He is no doubt the team's leader, but how well can he lead when he has missed 114 games the last two years? Overall though, with all the fire power in this unit, it is no doubt one of the best in the league and gets a 4.5/5 rating.


The Capitals defense received a lot of compliments from around the league last year for their ability to score, especially #52 Mike Green, who lead all of the league's defensemen in scoring. For as much praise as Mike Green got in the regular season, he faced just as much criticism for his lackluster defense in the playoffs. Although this defense may be flashy, they were 19th in the league in goals against. For the Caps to be a truly great team, they will need to toughen up and play hard nose physical defense at all times. Tom Poti, John Erskine, Milan Jurcina, and Jeff Schultz will all be back along with the 5th pick in the 2007 draft Karl Alzner. Alzner flirted with being a regular in the rotation last year, but wound up playing most of the season for Hershey. This seaon Alzner is expected to play the whole year with Washington and make a sizeable impact. Even with this defenses ability to score the puck, their lack of physical play in the defensive zone brings their rating to 3.5/5.


The goaltending situation may be the most prevolent issue on Capital's fans minds right now. In 2008 the Caps GM George McPhee brought in former Hart Trophy winner Jose Theodore to replace longtime beloved goalie Olie Kolzig. There was a lot of exitement surrounding Theodore to begin the season. Eyebrows began to raise though when he gave up 6 goals to division rival Atlanta before being pulled in the first game of the year. Jose played out the season and was relatively average yet began to show serious holes down the stretch to the playoffs. After an awful outing vs. New York in the first game of the playoffs, he was benched in favor of 20 year old Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov played well in the playoffs, other than miserable game 7 vs. the Penguins. Many Caps fans believe that Varlamov has locked up the job for 09-10, yet it seems that going into training camp it is still an open competition. The goalie position this year has the potential to be outstanding if either goaltender reaches his full potential. Right now though, with an over the hill goaltender and an unproven one, the position gets a 3.5/5 rating.

The Capitals should have no problem wrapping a weak Southeastern Division. If any team could pose a problem it would be Carolina, who had a fantastic stretch run last year that boosted them past #1 seed Boston and into the Eastern Conference finals. Aging captain Rod Brind'amour (right) is certainly not the player he once was and the Capitals are much more talented team. The mindset for the Caps this year must be Stanley Cup or bust because any exit prior to the Cup will be considered a dissapointment. If the Capitals can find solid play out of their goaltender don't be surprised to see the former bottom feeders still skating in June.


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