The Washington Capitals are nearly the end of a simply incredible regular season, one that has been the most successful in franchise history. Several players have performed beyond expectations, whether it be exciting youngsters emerging into stars, or wily veterans proving that they still have game.
The Capitals have a lot to be proud of – but given the roster that they have, anything short of a Stanley Cup will be a disappointment.
It is very hard to nitpick as a fan of this team, but when all we have known for the entire season is success, we can still see that some things need to improve.
It would be hard to pinpoint a hole on this roster, but there are still players that will need to go above and beyond what we have seen from them as of late in order to fuel a huge run to their first ever championship.
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We’re going to quickly go over five players who are absolutely crucial to the success of this team, and how they can up their game. So without further ado, let’s dive in.
63 points in 68 games is absolutely nothing to gripe about. Always one of the Washington Capitals’ best players, Nick Backstrom doesn’t always get the recognition he deserves. However, he has visibly not been himself lately.
He only has two goals since February began, and at one point suffered through an 18-game goal scoring drought. He has seven points in his last 11 games – far below what we are used to.
Backy may very well be injured, in which case not much can be done other than rest and the usual treatment if it isn’t too serious. However, Backstrom is going to have to begin producing at his usual rate again if the Washington Capitals want to go on a run. This could mean moving him off of the first line and thus, Alex Ovechkin as well. This should be something that head coach Barry Trotz looks to experiment with down the home stretch.
When forced into the third line center spot due to injuries, Marcus Johansson initially excelled. After never quite finding consistency at center through his early years in the league, it appeared that the Caps may have three very strong centers for the rest of the season.
However, like his linemates in general, Mojo has slowed down considerably. Since a three point effort in Nashville on February 9, he has just a goal and four assists over an 18-game span. Those are some ugly numbers, and discouraging ones as well.
Johansson has a vital role on the power play. He is depended upon for zone entries and puck control. His line in general has struggled, and given how well the fourth line has looked since Daniel Winnik’s addition, an argument can be made that Mojo’s line is really the fourth line now.
Simply put, the Caps are going to need more production from Johansson moving forward. Getting this line going would provide a huge boost, and perhaps that means moving Winnik up to his line to provide the offense that Jason Chimera currently isn’t.
This seems to be a pattern involving Swedes, but this isn’t how it looks. Andre Burakovsky has continued his expected progression this year, posting 16 goals and 20 assists in 68 games. He has found a (hopefully permanent) home on the Washington Capitals’ second line.
Burakovsky is absolutely a player that, if he catches fire, could put the Capitals over the top. Imagine a breakout situation like Evgeny Kuznetsov had in the playoffs last season.
Burakovsky is as skilled as they come at just 21-years-old. You have to be happy with how he has recovered from his early season struggles, so as long as he doesn’t regress to those levels, there is a lot of reason to be optimistic that Andre will be a big time player down the stretch and into the playoffs.
For Burakovsky, it will be a matter of being consistent and finding the right combination of linemates.
Chimmer got off to an extremely hot start this season. He was very useful on the power play, and meshed well with Marcus Johansson originally. He has just one goal and one assist in his past 11 games.
His biggest utility is speed, and while that is a great asset, that alone does not make you very useful. Chimera is going to have to start finding some scoring touch again, and soon, to contribute for his team.
Luckily, Chimera picked his game up down the stretch last season, and performed well during the playoffs.
Recently, Justin Williams has been on the opposite wing from Chimera with Johansson, which could provide a boost to this line. If that combination doesn’t work, it might be time to give someone else a look at the third line left wing position for the playoffs.
John Carlson hasn’t been in the lineup lately due to injury, and is due to return soon. When he does return, the Washington Capitals are going to need him at 100%.
When he returned from his first injury, he was almost definitely not at 100%, and it showed in his lack of production.
Carlson is the team’s top defenseman when healthy, and will likely move back onto the first power play unit as well. He is vital to his team’s success.
For Carlson, he just need to get healthy and get some game time under his belt before the postseason begins. This looks imminent, so hopefully the results soon follow.
Your turn: is there anyone that belongs on this list over someone else? Did we miss someone completely? Don’t agree with someone on the list? Let us know!