The Washington Capitals are the team to beat half way through the 2016-2017 season. On top of the Metropolitan Division, the toughest in hockey, with a core of veteran leadership, a ton of young talent, and a goaltender that is on absolute fire, there’s no evidence showing that this team will slow down heading into the playoffs.
Head Coach Barry Trotz has led his team to a 39-11-6 record with 80 points which has them sitting pretty on top of the NHL. The Capitals are on the way to receiving their second Presidents Cup Trophy in consecutive years. That is pure regular season dominance. With 26 games remaining and 13 of them at home at the Verizon Center, the Capitals are looking to end the season as strong as they begun.
The core of the Capitals is filled with top-tier talent. Alexander Ovechkin, who was recently named in the NHL’s Top 100 list, leads the team in goals with 26 to go along with 24 assists and 50 points.
Nicklas Backstrom has put on another excellent performance this year leading the team with 54 points and is currently in the top 6 of the league in assists. This comes as no surprise with goal scoring talents around him such as T.J Oshie, Alexander Ovechkin, and Marcus Johannson.
Including the top line skaters, they have been getting some key contributions from the bottom two lines including the resurgence of Brett Connolly. Connolly was released from the Boston Bruins last year after two underperforming seasons.
The Capitals took a chance signing him to an extremely low risk team friendly deal, and he has made the most of it. Connolly has 12 goals, 16 points and a +/- of 18 on the year. Performances from low level players like Connolly have put the Capitals alone atop the National Hockey League.
To be a Presidents Trophy contender, you need to have a goalie that you can rely on every game and expect a Vezina Trophy performance. Braden Holtby has been phenomenal all season long with a 27-8-4 record, .930 SV% and a ridiculous league leading GAA of 1.94. He also leads the league in shutouts. If the goaltender can maintain his ridiculous play, the Caps can go deep into the playoffs.
The top talent of this Capitals team is enough to win in the regular season. However, it has yet to be translated in the postseason. Last season the team was ousted in the second round against the Pittsburgh Penguins who would go on to win the Stanley Cup.
With a few key players heading into the final year of their contracts, including Justin Williams and Evgeny Kuznetsov, the time to win in Washington is now. They will not be able to retain all of their players especially with the contract of John Carlson, their star defenseman, coming up at the end of next season.
The Capitals are ready to win now. They are a team in their prime and ready to take on what the rest of the league has to offer.