Time for word association with the Washington Capitals' best players!
The first word that you associate with certain Capitals may be a profanity. That is completely justifiable, and an excellent way to cope with the emotional upheaval caused by these very same players.
My list will not be profane.
Nor will it be mundane.
Without further ado, here is the one word that best describes each of the Washington Capitals top stars.
Note: All statistics courtesy of NHL.com unless noted otherwise.
Everything about Alex Ovechkin is explosive.
The way he roars down the wing, whether it be the right or the left.
The way he shoots the puck with such force that the puck is actually overjoyed at hitting the back of the net, knowing it is momentarily free from the blast of Ovechkin's stick.
Or how he explodes into a check, demolishing opponents of all shapes and sizes.
But most importantly, it is how his teammates, coaches and the Verizon Center crowd explode into celebration when he does what he does best.
Simply put, Ovechkin is the combustible fuel that powers the Washington Capitals machine.
Nicklas Backstrom has an uncanny—almost unfathomable—ability to hold onto the puck one second longer than expected so that he can maintain possession, start the breakout or assist a teammate.
But Backstrom's patience has served him in other regards.
During the 2011-12 season, Backstrom patiently waited 40 games to recover from a concussion suffered at the hands of Rene Bourque. Meanwhile, Bourque was suspended five games, according to Katie Carrera of The Washington Post, and faced minimal retribution for his transgression.
Backstrom has had to be patient throughout his career as he awaits the recognition he deserves. According to his profile at Hockey-Reference.com, Backstrom has not won any postseason awards since his rookie campaign, and has yet to be voted to the All-Star Game.
Finally, Backstrom has had to be patient with the Washington Capitals organization.
The team has struggled to find a second-line center for years, forcing him to shoulder the load on offense and the power play as the primary playmaker.
Backstrom has even needed patience with regards to the Capitals' coaching changes. The Swedish centerman talked to Katie Carrera of The Washington Post about Dale Hunter's resignation following the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the team's deepest foray into the postseason since 2009:
We played good hockey in the playoff and I think he’s been doing so many good things for this team. I really wanted to see him back next year but unfortunately he’s not. It’s not good.
It remains to be seen if Backstrom's patience will pay off.
Merriam Webster defines anachronistic as "the state or condition of being chronologically out of place."
No other word better defines the hockey career of Mike Green.
You see, Green is playing hockey in the wrong era. If he were playing in the NHL 40 years ago, he'd have won the Norris Trophy half-a-dozen times, much like Bobby Orr. If Green were playing in the NHL 30 years ago, he'd have won the Norris three or four times, much like Paul Coffey.
But instead, Green is playing in an era in which for a brief period of two seasons, the NHL decided to break from the precedent set by Orr in which the Norris Trophy winner is given to an offensive-minded defenseman.
During this period—from 2008 to 2010—the NHL instead awarded the Norris Trophy to a defensive-minded defenseman, only to reestablish the offense-first precedent after that two-year window had closed.
As a result, Mike Green has no Norris Trophies, and the credibility of the award as a fair and valid means of acknowledging outstanding defensemen of all skill sets has been further eroded.
Green's anachronistic career was further highlighted when the 2011-12 Norris Trophy was awarded to Ottawa Senators rookie Erik Karlsson, who posted 19 goals, 59 assists and 78 points with a plus-16 rating.
These numbers were eerily similar to Green's 2009-10 season, when he scored 19 goals with 57 assists for 76 points, with a plus-39 rating. Despite almost identical seasons, the Norris went to Karlsson that season, but never Green.
Wrong place, wrong time.
John Carlson is emerging from the shadows of both Mike Green and Karl Alzner to earn the title of best all-around defenseman on the Washington Capitals.
And Carlson's emergence into superstardom may be completed this winter in Sochi.
Earlier this year, Carlson was predicted by USA Hockey Magazine to make the 2014 US Olympic Men's Team. Remember, Carlson has been a hero for Team USA before.
Carlson scored the gold-medal winning goal in overtime at the 2009-10 IIHF U-20 World Junior Championships, after also scoring the game-winning goal against Sweden in the semifinals.
Carlson described the golden goal to Lucas Aykroyd of the IIHF, saying "I kind of closed my eyes and it went in. It was unbelievable."
It would not be unbelievable to see Carlson emerge as a hero in 2013-14 while wearing the red, white and blue, for either Team USA or Washington.
Braden Holtby playing goalie for the Washington Capitals is as unpredictable as opening a box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get.
The eccentric netminder is maddeningly inconsistent. Holtby will be simply sensational one game, simply dreadful the next.
Case in point, the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Take a look at Holtby's game logs for the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Rangers:
But it's not just his performance from game to game that's unpredictable, it's his play in net during each game.
In Game 4 of the 2013 ECQF versus the Rangers, Holtby played the puck with plenty of time and space, and attempted to clear it out of his zone. The puck was intercepted by the Rangers, leading directly to their first goal in a game they would win 4-3. After the game, Holtby explained the play to Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times:
It was an unfortunate play. I thought I made the right play; I thought I got it high enough for it to be a high stick. And it’s just what happens. That’s the way I play the game, so I’m not going to change.
With this type of mindset from their goaltender, the Capitals' results will become very predictable.