Biggest Storyline Surrounding Each Washington Capitals Star in 2013-14 Season
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One such storyline involves Alex Ovechkin's quest for both Olympic gold and Lord Stanley's Cup. Capitals fans will also be watching Nick Backstrom and Mike Green as they both attempt to duplicate their offensive production from previous seasons. Finally, John Carlson and Braden Holtby will be under the microscope as they attempt to distance themselves from peers and teammates, respectively.
Here now is the biggest storyline surrounding each Washington Capitals star in the 2013-14 season.
Note: All statistics courtesy of NHL.com unless noted otherwise.
1. Does Olympic Gold Distract Alex Ovechkin from Stanley Cup?
Alex Ovechkin is a fierce Russian patriot.
The Capitals captain eagerly accepted the role of ambassador to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Plus, Ovechkin now knows that he will definitely be participating in the games. On July 19, the NHL officially announced that NHL players will take part in the 2014 Olympics.
But is that a good thing for the Washington Capitals?
Ovechkin would be leaving the Capitals (during an official break in play) to fly to Russia in hopes of winning Olympic gold. But in years past, he has immediately left the Capitals after another playoff defeat to play for his home country in the IIHF World Championships, winning gold in that competition in 2012.
Could Ovechkin's single-minded search for national glory be an obstacle on his journey to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?
2. Will Nicklas Backstrom Maintain Point-Per-Game Production?
Nicklas Backstrom has been extremely productive for the Washington Capitals in his six seasons in the NHL.
Backstrom has 415 points in 413 career games. According to Hockey-Reference.com, Backstrom has produced at least one point per game in four of his six seasons.
However, Backstrom has not played a complete season since 2010-11. The Swedish center played only 48 games in 2012-13 due to the work stoppage and only 42 games in 2011-12 due to a concussion.
Plus, during that most recent complete season, Backstrom's 0.84 points per game was his worst average since his rookie season, when he compiled that same number, according to Hockey-Reference.com.
It will be interesting to see if Backstrom can resume point-per-game production over a full 82-game season. The Capitals offense will be depending on him to do so, especially in the absence of Mike Ribeiro.
3. Can Mike Green Still Reach the 70-Point Plateau?
Over the course of two magical seasons, Mike Green was the most offensively productive defenseman in the NHL.
In 2008-09, Green's 73 points led the NHL.
In 2009-10, Green's 76 points again led the NHL.
But in the three seasons since then, Green has played in 116 of a possible 212 games due to multiple injuries. He only totaled 57 points in those three seasons.
However, 26 of those 57 points came during the 2012-13 season. Green showed signs of recovery last year, all while playing in only 35 games. In fact, his 12 goals led all NHL defensemen.
Mike Green could very well return to his previous 70-point level of production, assuming he can stay healthy for the entire 2013-14 season.
In Green's case, that is a large assumption.
4. Is John Carlson an Elite Defender?
John Carlson is quietly becoming the Capitals' most complete defender.
But is he elite?
Decide for yourself. Here are Carlson's 2012-13 statistics in several major categories and where he ranked among 290 NHL defensemen:
|Time on Ice per Game||23:01||41st|
|Short-handed Time on Ice per Game||2:53||33rd|
If Carlson maintains his output from last season, he will continue to be a very good defender.
However, to be considered elite, Carlson will have to improve in some categories, most notably giveaways and time on ice per game. Of course, to increase his time on ice per game, Carlson will first have to be considered elite on his own hockey team.
5.Does Braden Holtby Keep the Starting Job?
Braden Holtby was the Capitals' primary goaltender in 2012-13.
The 23-year-old Saskatchewan native played in 36 of 48 games, compiling a 23-12-1 record with a .920 save percentage and a 2.58 goals-against average. Holtby also posted four shutouts, good for sixth in the NHL.
But Holtby's dominance of the goalie position last season was a bit unexpected. In training camp, head coach Adam Oates had talked to Adam Vingan of NBC Washington about his plan for using Holtby and Michal Neuvirth:
Forty-eight games, I think both guys are gonna play a lot. I always say that when a guy is playing well, he's playing well. He should play. I’ve got two young kids. They’re both very good goalies.
Oates did not stay true to his word. Neuvirth played a total of 13 games, compiling a 4-5-2 record with a .910 save percentage and a 2.74 goals-against average.
Will Oates practice what he preached if Holtby begins to struggle this coming season? Or is Holtby the No. 1, no matter what?
Time will tell...