As the new year roles around I can only wonder what the rest of this season holds for the Washington Capitals. It seems so long ago that the Caps lost 5-0 in a Game 7 to the New York Rangers. It’s hard to believe that it was actually last season that Ovechkin won MVP of the NHL and took home the Rocket Richard. It’s in a distant memory now the debacle that resulted from the NHL lockout. At any rate, I’m excited. Will this finally be the year the Capitals are finally able to take home Lord Stanley? Here’s my New Year’s resolution for the Caps.
Get tighter on defense.
After starting the season off leading the NHL in penalty killing and showcasing a very solid defense, the Caps have lost a little bit of their identity. There are moments when I’m forced to bite my nails and pray as I wait for the Caps to clear their zone after a five minute puck barrage on the goaltender. Too many times I’ve seen breakaways or odd man rushes as the defenders are out of position. The Capitals have some spectacular goalies but they need to get some help from the guys up front.
Get the puck to the net.
I appreciate the pretty plays, but a lot of times the Caps just make one too many passes and end up losing a perfect opportunity to challenges the opposing net minder. Ovechkin has been doing an excellent job of just getting the puck to the net and is consistently racking up the shot totals every night, which is why his goal production is so high. If the Caps learn to pepper the goalie enough, good things will happen. Sometimes the finesse works but other times, leave it at home and give the team a chance to score.
Better penalty killing.
Although this has looked a lot better as of late, the Caps penalty killing has had a huge drop since being in first at the beginning of the season. They have looked all out of sorts lately and it’s been showing up in the stats. If they’re going to make a run in the playoffs or even make it there, penalty killing needs to step up.
More even strength scoring.
I LOVE the power play of the Caps and how effective it has been, but we need to figure out how to score five on five, especially our first line. Wingers Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechkin along with center Nicklas Backstrom need to figure out more creative ways to score rather than just feeding OV for the one timer. The Caps can’t rely on the opposing team taking penalties; they need to go out there and control their on fate.
Ovechkin and Backstrom continue their success.
Leading the league in goals, shots, and power plays goals, Ovechkin’s play has been sensational this season. Number four in assists and number one in power play points, Backstrom has found his stride. Both need to retain this heat if they want to make a deep playoff run. If they cool off, so will the Caps.
Continued production from second and third liners. Forwards Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer, Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr, Mikhail Grabovski, and Martin Erat have been outstanding for the Caps lately and it’s helped give the team a huge advantage. When all lines are producing, it makes them a completely different team and much more dangerous. All great teams have four lines that are able to produce when the going gets tough and the Caps have some of the best second, third, and fourth line players they have had in years.
Make the playoffs and win.
The past four seasons the Capitals have been unable to reach the Eastern Conference championships after losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 five years ago. They have been eliminated by the eighth seeded Montreal Canadiens after winning the president’s trophy, the Tampa Bay Lightning after finishing first in the Eastern Conference, and the New York Rangers the past two years in match ups they should have won. They need to find a way to finally start winning and come up big in the clutch.
Bring it on, 2014. I’m ready.