Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Is this the year the Caps finally break through?
If you are going to have some bold predictions, you might as well make the boldest one of them all.
The Caps will win the Stanley Cup this year.
Yes...I said it.
Before you dismiss this prediction as being utterly ludicrous, consider a few things.
The Caps are leaving the friendly confines of the now-defunct Southeast Division and moving to the resurrected Patrick Division, renamed the Metropolitan Division.
There, they will be joined by former divisional rival the Carolina Hurricanes. Another newcomer will be the improving Columbus Blue Jackets, transferring over from the Western Conference.
The other members of the Metropolitan Division are all old rivals of the Caps from the good old days, when the Patrick Division existed and fierce rivalries were the norm. We are talking about the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Without question, the road to the playoffs will be much rougher than in previous seasons. But if the Caps can successfully navigate their way into the playoffs, they might very well be better prepared to succeed than any Caps team in history.
When you break down Eastern Conference realignment, you will see that the road to, at a minimum, a seventh consecutive playoff berth is actually very attainable.
If realignment had been in place this past season, the Caps would have actually finished second in the Metropolitan Division, although they would have been a good 15 points behind the division-winning Pittsburgh Penguins. The Caps would not have even been a wild-card team—they would have been one of the automatic qualifiers.
In the Eastern Conference, the other division is the Atlantic Division, which consists of the defending Eastern Conference champions, the Boston Bruins, along with the Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings (the other Western Conference team transferring to the Eastern Conference this season), Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Caps have always played the Bruins tough and they should match up fairly well against any of the other Eastern Conference potential opponents.
If they can reach the Stanley Cup Final...who knows.
If you really look at the Caps roster, there is absolutely the potential there for the team to do something really special.
The top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson could be just as good as last season, perhaps even better.
There is some great depth on the second line with the addition of Mikhail Grabovski, who had two assists in the preseason loss to the Bruins on Monday night. Add in Martin Erat, Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich and the Caps second line should be better than a year ago.
The bottom six is very deep as well with players like Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, Jason Chimera, Mathieu Perreault and, quite possibly, Tom Wilson.
Defensively, the Caps look very solid with Mike Green, Karl Alzner, John Carlson and Steve Oleksy.
The Caps also have depth on defense with players like Dmitry Orlov, Tomas Kundratek and, perhaps, recently signed Connor Carrick as well.
In goal, the Caps also look to be set with Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth between the pipes.
The 2013-14 version of the Caps will be able to build off of the experience they have gained over the years. They will be hungry to try and exorcise the demons of past playoff failures and they will have a decent influx of young talent that should be able to help them.
The 2013-14 version of the Caps will be a very good team. They might even be great.
Hey...it could happen.