NHL: 5 Stories the Washington Capitals Will Miss During the Lockout
If it wasn’t for the NHL Lockout, the Washington Capitals would be the NHL’s most interesting team to keep up with. Between Alexander Ovechkin’s decreasing scoring totals and the rise of goaltender Braden Holtby, there are plenty of good Caps storylines fans are missing during the lockout.
The fans have already missed out on a lot between the cancellation of the preseason and the first two weeks of games—most of which goes beyond the final score of the games.
Each Capitals game cancelled is another delay for the stories that surround Ovechkin and his fellow Caps.
The ongoing coaching struggles within the Capitals continue as the team welcomes a second coaching replacement in less than a year.
Bruce Boudreau’s firing was the right thing to move the team forward, and Dale Hunter was the best possible replacement. However, Hunter stepped down as head coach at the end of the Caps’ postseason run.
The way the Caps adjust to another new coach is the biggest wild card for the Caps whenever the season resumes. As one of the best playmakers in Capitals history, Oates should have some fresh ideas for the team while also moving forward with the defensive initiatives implemented by Boudreau and Hunter.
The longer the lockout lasts, the harder it will be for the Caps to adjust to a new coach. They already missed training camp, and they’re missing plenty of regular practices.
If the lockout ends and the season resumes, the Caps may find it challenging to adjust to Oates and his coaching tendencies halfway through the season.
Brooks Laich Showing What It Means to Be a Team Player
Last season, Brooks Laich really made a name for himself as a team player.
Laich carries himself as a Capitals leader on and off the ice. He continues to represent the team on the NHLPA and as an alternate captain.
Furthermore, Laich stepped up when the Caps’ defensive core was depleted by injuries. In a November game versus the New Jersey Devils, Laich found himself defending Washington’s blue line.
More than just solidifying himself as the most versatile player on the Caps roster, Laich showed that he is a true team player. Watching him continue to evolve as a leader is a story Caps fans are sorely missing out on during the lockout.
The Rise of a Legitimate Second-Line Center for the Caps
The Capitals acquired Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars during the draft. In return, the Caps sent Cody Eakin and their second-round pick to the Stars.
Eakin is a promising young forward who looked good in the 30 games he played with the Caps this season. Even so, the need for a legitimate second-line center was a pressing issue.
With the addition of Ribeiro, the Caps have filled a huge offensive void.
The lockout is delaying the debut of Washington’s new additions. The anticipation is building, though. When the work stoppage ends, the Caps should be a big offensive force in the NHL.
Ovechkin’s Scoring Troubles
Alexander Ovechkin and his scoring woes have been the hottest debate topic of the Washington Capitals. After all, when the Caps drafted him with the first overall pick in 2004 NHL Entry Draft, his main job was to score goals.
The problem has been that Ovechkin’s scoring numbers have dropped significantly over the past two seasons. He set records when he scored 106 points as a rookie and again when he surpassed 100 points in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.
When the 2011-12 regular season came to an end, the “Great Eight” only had 65 points. While finishing in fifth in the league for goals scored is impressive, Caps fans have reason to expect more from Ovechkin.
Adam Oates, the new head coach of the Capitals, knows how important a winger like Ovechkin is. It will be interesting to see whether or not Oates goes out of his way to help Ovechkin return to the scoring numbers that made him a legend.
Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth Fighting for the Crease
With Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth out with injuries and the playoffs quickly approaching, Dale Hunter and the Capitals turned to rookie goaltender Braden Holtby.
Holtby became a superstar during the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. His superb play in the net helped the Caps upset the Boston Bruins. Holtby was also integral in the Caps taking the first-seeded New York Rangers to seven games.
Since Vokoun was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Holtby and Neuvirth will be battling for role of starting goaltender.
Neuvirth has Holtby beat in the experience department. Holtby, on the other hand, has proven to be a go-to player in pressure situations.
Watching Holtby and Neuvirth compete and bring the best out of one another will be fun to watch. It should also help the Capitals as a whole.
It also seems that there’s a bit of tension between the two goalies, too—since Neuvirth called Holtby his “weakest competition” yet (via Yahoo! Sports).
Michael Prunka is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist and Sports Writing Intern. To stay up to date with his WWE and NHL commentary, you can like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter and follow him on Tout.