The Capitals can score with the best of them in the NHL. Last season, Washington had five players score more than 30 points, led by Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin, who scored 32 goals and 56 points in 48 games. Nicklas Backstrom had another strong season as well, recording 40 assists and 48 points in 48 games. That durability from the team’s top two point producers make the Capitals lethal against any opponent.
The issue, at least offensively, is a lack of scoring depth. After the usual suspects of Ovechkin, Backstrom and, to a lesser extent, Troy Brouwer (19-14-33), the Capitals had trouble putting pucks in the net. Forwards Joel Ward, Marcus Johansson, Eric Fehr and Mathieu Perreault combined for just 29 goals. The addition of Grabovski and trade deadline acquisition Martin Erat, as well as a healthy Brooks Laich – who was limited to just nine games last year – should help generate scoring throughout the lineup and take some pressure of Washington’s big guns.
The Capitals do have two blueliners who are more than capable in contributing offensively in Mike Green and John Carlson. Green returned to form last season, scoring 12 goals and 26 points in 35 games, while Carlson notched 22 points in 48 games while amounting a plus-11 rating.
But Washington’s defense has been a roller coaster ride for several seasons thanks to new coaching regimes and systems. Last season, Washington was 18th in the League in goals against with 130, or 2.71 goals per game. Luckily, the team’s offense was cooking at 3.04 goals per game – fourth in the NHL – which helped offset a spotty blueline that saw 13 different players play at least one game.
Last season Braden Holtby became the team’s true No. 1 netminder. He went 23-12-1 with a .920 save percentage and a 2.58 goals against average. He was stellar in a losing effort against the Rangers in the postseason, when he had a .922 save percentage to go along with a 2.22 goals against average with one shutout.
As expected, the Capitals had the best power play in the NHL at 26.8 percent, thanks in large part to Ovechkin’s 16 goals with the man advantage. While Ovechkin led the way, he was helped greatly by Mike Ribeiro, who recorded 27 power play points last year. That hole will have to be filled – probably by Grabovski – if Washington hopes to continue be the power play threat they were last season.
A big area of concern for head coach Adam Oates is the penalty kill, which ranked 27th in the NHL last season at just 77.9 percent. The Capitals lost Jeff Schultz (1:28 of penalty killing time per game) and Matt Hendricks (1:44 per game), and while it could be argued neither player helped in having a strong penalty kill, losing two cogs like that could be detrimental moving forward.
Lastly, the move into the Metropolitan Division could prove worrisome for the Capitals. Last season, Washington went 15-3 against their Southeast Division foes and just 4-9-2 against Atlantic Division teams, which make up the bulk of the newly formed Metropolitan Division.