In addition, the league is divided into four divisions depending on the team location, so players don’t have to travel as much as usual. The capitals are in the East Division and only play against seven other East Coast teams.
Despite these changes, the caps played well. They have a record of 29-13-4 (29 wins, 13 losses and 4 overtime losses).
The stars of the caps have likely changed the slightest of any local Washington team in recent years. Alex Ovechkin leads by 24 goals. Nicklas Backstrom has the team’s top 33 assists, while John Carlson anchors the defense. Together, the three have appeared in almost 3,000 games in Washington uniform.
Then there are familiar faces like TJ Oshie, Tom Wilson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and others. The caps have a lot of players who were there when Washington won the Stanley Cup in 2018.
A new player is Anthony Mantha. The Caps recently exchanged Jakub Vrana for Mantha. I was sorry to see Vrana go. The noticeable striker was my favorite player in Washington. But the Caps are hoping the tall (6 feet 5 inches, 234 pounds), sturdy mantha will be more useful than the quick Vrana in the playoffs.
Can the caps win the cup again? Or at least make a long run in the playoffs?
The NHL playoffs are different this season too. The four best teams in each division form the playoffs. (The Caps have a 10 point lead over the team in fifth place.) The first two rounds of the Best of Seven series are played against teams in their own division.
The Caps will likely face teams with a lot of experience in the playoffs like the New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins.
One problem the caps can have in the playoffs is their young, inexperienced goalkeepers. Vitek Vanecek (25) did a good job in his rookie season as the Caps main goalkeeper. Ilya Samsonov (24) was fine as a backup for Vanecek. But no one has played in an NHL playoff game.
The playoffs are intense with lots of close matches. A goalkeeper’s mistake could cost his team a game and perhaps the streak.
The caps are talented enough to win a series or two, and maybe with a bit of luck, the cup. But I wonder if they have the right goalkeepers.