Monday, October 4, 2010
2010-11 Preview: Washington Capitals
2010-11 Prediction 1st Eastern Conference
Any discussion of the Washington Capitals typically starts and ends with LW and Captain, Alexander Ovechkin. While the role of a Captain is certainly one that makes someone the center of attention in many areas, Ovechkin receives an unfair portion of the blame for his team's failures (perceived or real). The reason he doesn't deserve most of this blame is that Ovechkin holds up his end of the bargain. He puts butts in the seats, pucks in the net, and last time I checked does not assemble the roster of his team. In my opinion, any blame needed for what the Caps have or have not accomplished lies with GM George McPhee and Coach Bruce Boudreau (I'll come back to Ovie in a minute). These are the men that have failed to assemble a roster capable of grinding out a tough playoff series. While offensive free wheeling is a strategy I love to see in the regular season, when the playoffs roll around the game tightens up. As they enter this season, the Caps #1 area of concern is with G's Michal Neuvirth and Simeon Varlamov. These are 22 year olds that have an upside, but only if the team commits to playing tough in front of them in April, May, and June. Playing tough in front of the goal starts with your blue liners, and D Mike Green is the leader of this core. He is a talented regular season player, but so far he can best be described as a phantom in the playoffs. Tom Poti, Jeff Schultz, Tyler Sloan, and company will face their test in the playoff months. At this point, anyone who says otherwise as a Caps fan or organizational representive is either kidding themselves or disturbingly off in their priorities. At this ponit in the preview game, I'd rather not go through the list of forwards like C Nicklas Backstrom, LW Alexander Semin, and others stating the redundant about their flaws. For the Capitals, it all comes down to what they do in the playoffs. I believe they are clearly the top team in the East during the regular season. The roster will have to stiffen up or face some late changes to make a serious run at the Cup though. All in all, I am willing to write the words that most people in Pittsburgh will not: Alexander Ovechkin is a hell of a player, and I believe that someone of his talent level will win a championship sooner rather than later. It defies logic to expect a player of this impact to continue to be shut out for the rest of his 15 or so years left on the ice. Every year that he fails to win is an indictment on the guys around him, and his organization if you ask me. As I've said, he does his part. Show me a player with more hustle, more desire to win, and most likely I will show you a champion. Ovie will join them at some point, it's just a matter of those around him wanting hit half as much as he does.
Player to Watch: LW Alexander Ovechkin