Metropolitan Division 2014-15 Preview: Washington Capitals

2014-15 NHL season preview: Metropolitan Division
Thursday October 2nd, 2014

MORE METRO PREVIEWS: Rangers | Flyers | Penguins | Islanders | Devils | Blue Jackets | Hurricanes

Best case scenarios for Eastern Conference teams

COACH: Barry Trotz

2013-14 RECORD: 38-30-14, 90 points (fifth in Metropolitan, missed playoffs)

VITAL SIGNS: 2.7 goals per game (13th), 2.8 goals-against per game (21st); 23.4 power play pct. (2nd); 82.0 penalty kill pct. (16th); shootout record: 10-11 (19th)

NOTABLE ARRIVALS: D Matt Niskanen, D Brooks Orpik, G Justin Peters, F Chris Conner

NOTABLE DEPARTURES: C Mikhail Grabovski, D Tyson Strachan, G Jaroslav Halak



Brooks Laich — Nicklas Backstrom — Alex Ovechkin
Jason Chimera — Marcus Johansson — Troy Brouwer
Eric Fehr — Jay Beagle — Joel Ward
Evgeny Kuznetsov — Michael Latta — Tom Wilson


Brooks Orpik — John Carlson
Karl Alzner — Matt Niskanen
Dmitry Orlov — Mike Green


Braden Holtby
Justin Peters

The three keys to the Washington Capitals' defense initiative

OUTLOOK: If Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals could play every minute on the power play (theirs was among the league's best last season) they’d be just fine. That’s impossible, of course, and so Ovie and Washington will have to find a way to succeed at even strength if they want to get back into the playoffs. Bringing in new coach Barry Trotz and acquiring the ex-Penguins blue-line duo of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik will help, but Ovechkin’s maverick position and lackadaisical defense don’t exactly set the right tone for his teammates. If Trotz hopes to keep his job longer than Adam Oates did, he’ll have to preach discipline and accountability for 5-on-5 situations and plumb the depths of his forwards to help prop up the Caps’ top six. A solid season from net minder Braden Holtby is crucial, too.

• Ovechkin at career crossroads

Alex Ovechkin still key to the retooled Washington Capitals

PLAYER TO WATCH: Evgeny Kuznetsov

Washington's 2010 first round pick (26th) wears a high number (92), he’s young (22), blindingly fast and blessed with impressive skills. Intrigued yet? The Capitals certainly are. The Russian center turned in nine points (three goals, six assists) during a 17-game stint with the big club last season, and lofty expectations will follow Kuznetsov into his first full year in the NHL. He’ll probably shift from wing to center, a position that will put him in the thick of the Capitals’ attack as opposing defenses focus on the top unit of Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. It remains to be seen how Kuznetsov’s relatively slight frame (6', 172 pounds) will handle the day-in, day-out grind of the league, but it’s not a stretch to see him racking up points and bidding for the Calder Trophy.

PREDICTION: 82 points (sixth in Metropolitan)

• ATLANTIC PREVIEWS: Canadiens | Bruins | Sabres | Panthers | Maple Leafs | Red Wings | Lightning | Senators

• CENTRAL PREVIEWS: Wild | Stars | Blackhawks | Avalanche | Jets | Predators | Blues

• PACIFIC PREVIEWS: Canucks | Sharks | Coyotes | Flames | Ducks | Oilers | Kings

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.