Washington Capitals: New Season, Old Team, Better Results

Darcy Kuemper, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Darcy Kuemper, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

There will be no stats or analytics mentioned in this article, we’re talking about intangibles.

As we embark on the 2022-2023 NHL season, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room. This team is old. Much ado as been made about the aging core of the Washington Capitals, and with good reason, the team is the NHL’s third-oldest and they aren’t getting any younger. The window to win again with Alex Ovechkin is now and that’s why Darcy Kuemper is here. Even so, many experts don’t even think the Capitals will make the playoffs this season. The Capitals haven’t won a playoff series since their magical run to the Stanley Cup in 2018 but it isn’t because they’re old. It’s because they were too young where it mattered most.

The young goaltending duo of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek (Craig Anderson filled in due to injury) have been the team’s starting goalies in the playoffs since Braden Holtby made “The Save”. Later that June, Holtby hoisted the Stanley Cup above his head. And then, we said goodbye. At the time, it was the right move but it didn’t sting Capitals fans any less. Braden Holtby is beloved and with good reason. Braden is an A+ human being and on-the-ice, he’s the only goaltender in franchise history to get it done with everything on the line.

The Capitals have needed someone to provide stability in-net like Holtby did ever since and they haven’t gotten it. You could argue that Peter Laviolette’s management of his two young netminders were to blame – I did. I firmly believed and still believe that Vitek Vanecek will be an excellent starting goaltender for years to come if given the opportunity and the unwavering support. On the flipside, I have no confidence in Ilya Samsonov to succeed in Toronto. But, that’s not what we’re here to talk about. We are here to talk about Darcy Kuemper.

At this point in his career, fresh off a Stanley Cup Championship of his own, Kuemper is more talented, more experienced, and more accomplished than any goaltender the Capitals have had since Braden Holtby, but more importantly, the decision about who the team’s number one goaltender is has been taken out of Peter Laviolette’s hands and that is what will propel the Capitals into the playoffs and beyond.

Darcy Kuemper is the clear starting goaltender and that gives the team stability and confidence that they haven’t had since the Holtby-era. On opening night tonight, Kuemper will guard the cage, and then for every important game this season he will get the call until the first round of the playoffs begin with him in-net. There will be no flip-flopping of the “hot goalie” every other week, no trade deadline rumors about the Caps needing to acquire a goaltender. The Capitals will ride or die with Darcy Kuemper and you will see that confidence filter it’s way throughout the lineup.

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That isn’t to say that Capitals fans shouldn’t be concerned with the team’s age or their power play continuing to be stale. But as we all know, the goaltender is the most impactful player on the ice. A team’s goaltender can make or break a game or even a series and that’s why Capitals fans should be optimistic about the 2022-2023 season with Darcy Kuemper.