NHL Playoffs 2012: 5 Reasons to Believe the Washington Capitals Can Win the Cup

Keegan McNallyCorrespondent IIApril 26, 2012

NHL Playoffs 2012: 5 Reasons to Believe the Washington Capitals Can Win the Cup

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    In case you missed it, the $3 million-man Joel Ward of the Washington Capitals finally earned his paycheck by scoring the OT winner to send the defending Stanley Cup champions to the golf course. 

    In the tightest Stanley Cup series in history, the Washington Capitals are cruising as a seventh seed to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    Is it too early to call them cup favorites? Can this underdog story keep on rolling throughout the playoffs?

    There's at least five good reasons to start believing.  

Team Effort

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    Here's an interesting statistic, all but two Capitals skaters had at least a point in this series. All but two Capitals forwards, Mathieu Perreault and Keith Aucoin, contributed goals to this team's success.

    Mike Green has returned to what appears to be his old form, as he had a goal and an assist in this series.

    So, what does that tell you?

    The Capitals have finally started to work as a team instead of focusing their entire system on the back of Alexander Ovechkin. 

    The team effort in Washington is astounding and definitely different from previous postseasons. This could be a good omen for the Capitals in the coming rounds. 

A New System

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    Karl Alzner may be the unsung hero of the first round for Washington.

    He played about as perfectly as a defensive defenseman can play in a series, averaging the most time on ice out of any Capital at 24:55 per game, and still coming out with a positive plus/minus. 

    This success can be attributed to the new system that head coach Dale Hunter has instilled in this team.

    Although it may not be the run-and-gun Washington team of old, the Capitals look to be playing their best defensive hockey of the Alex Ovechkin-era. 

    If the Capitals can make it all the way to the cup, this new system just may be the key.

Stars Stepping Up

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    Alex Ovechkin may have looked invisible while being blanketed by one of the best shutdown defensive pairs in the NHL in Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. 

    However, he still posted two goals and five points in seven games and provided his team with more than enough energy throughout each game. 

    Alexander Semin finally showed off his sharpshooting abilities by posting three goals, the most out of any Capital. 

    And finally, Nicklas Backstrom had an overtime game-winner and three assists throughout his six games.

    The point here is that the stars are finally showing up (all together might I add) during the postseason. This hasn't happened in quite some time for Washington. 

No Penguins

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    With the departure of the Penguins in six games to the Philadelphia Flyers, it is almost as if the Capitals have lost their super-villain. 

    The rivalry between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin will probably never die out, but without the ying to the Capitals' yang, the path to the Stanley Cup seems a bit clearer.

    Although the Rangers and Flyers seem to have rosters fit for the postseason, the elimination of the Penguins certainly helps the Capitals chances.

Braden Holtby

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    Composure should be Braden Holtby's middle name. 

    Considering the following factors before tonight's game:

    • Holtby is playing in his first ever playoff series
    • Holtby only has 28 total games of NHL experience
    • Holtby is playing in his first ever Game 7
    • Holtby is playing against the defending Stanley Cup champions
    • Holtby is playing in his first ever Game 7 overtime.

    But guess what? None of that matters. 

    Holtby allows only one goal on 32 shots and leads the Capitals to the second round.

    The series stats are astounding, as Holtby faced the most shots out of any goaltender in the first round (the two Game 7s tomorrow may change that stat) and only allows 15 goals in a seven-game series. 

    He posts a .940 save percentage and looks calm, cool and collected all along the way. 

    If there is a chance for the Capitals to win the cup this year, it starts and ends with this young goaltender.