As the season winds down and playoff positions come into a clearer view, we here at Running With The Devils will preview the other seven teams vying to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup finals. We start the conference preview with the Washington Capitals, who sit atop the N.H.L. with the best record.
Washington feature’s one of the game’s best scoring threats in Alexander Ovechkin, who already has 45 goals and 97 points on the season. But the Caps aren’t a one-dimensional team. Their depth on the offensive end should be envied by most teams in the league. They have a good mix of scorers, playmakers, and grind-it-out guys. Nicklas Backstrom has recorded 88 points on the season, and role players like Mike Knuble have double-digit goal totals. The strength of their forwards is one of the best in the league and definitely gives the Caps an advantage over most teams in the conference.
The defense for the Caps is good, but not great. Mike Green is the household name, and the best Caps blueliner. He’s already recorded 70 points, and he’s a great quarterback on the Caps powerplay. But, after that, the ability falls off a bit. Deadline acquisition Joe Corv0 hasn’t been great, only netting two goals and playing to a -1 with the Caps. But the defense isn’t a glaring weakness. The Caps get solid backchecking from their forwards, and their defenseman are usually solid.
It seems like this can be the one weak area the Caps haven’t addressed. Jose Theodore, who has been hot recently, isn’t the greatest goalie in the league. He has 26 wins on the season, but he’s also allowing almost three goals a game (2.76 GAA). But Theodore’s playoff play is what dents the armor. He didn’t get the nod at all last year, with Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau electing to play Semyon Varlamov. Two years ago, Theodore allowed 20 goals in eight playoff games for the Colorado Avalanche in 2008, and suffered through a terrible series against the Detroit Red Wings. Varlamov, who seemed to be the goalie of the future, couldn’t take the number one role this season. The young goalie missed significant time due to injury, and he’s only appeared in 21 games this season. He’s 13-3-4 with two shutouts on the season.
If there’s one weakness on this team, it’s between the pipes. The Caps goaltending seems to continuously be up and down throughout the season. Right now, Theodore is hot, putting together an incredible 16-0-2 record in the past 18 games. But Theodore could easily go cold and become a subpar goalie. The Caps offense will always be able to cover a goalie’s struggle, but we’ve seen the importance of goaltending in past playoff series. Without good goaltending, a team usually doesn’t bring home Lord Stanley. The Capitals are clearly ahead of many teams, but their goaltending weakness can leave them susceptible in the postseason.