Early Stock Watch for Washington Capitals' Top Stars in 2013-14
As a team that hasn't missed the postseason once in the last six years, the Washington Capitals' 3-5 start has to be at least a little troubling for majority owner Ted Leonsis, general manager George McPhee and bench boss Adam Oates.
There have been a number of reasons for Washington's struggles, as the Caps have been unable to play 60 minutes of quality hockey thus far, but by that same token, the team can take solace in the fact that many of Washington's best players have done what's been expected of them.
Heading into a crucial road game against a former Southeast Division rival in the Winnipeg Jets (a team that the Caps had success against away from home last season), here's an early look at how Washington's biggest stars have played through the first couple weeks of the 2013-14 NHL campaign.
While Nicklas Backstrom should still be encouraged to shoot the puck more often, the clever Swedish pivot has picked up right where he left off last spring, thriving as the team's No. 1 center.
Currently sitting fifth in the league in assists with eight in as many games, Backstrom's creativity and vision on the power play has been critical to the Caps' success with the man advantage.
Though Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson have yet to truly click as a line at even strength, if the trio keeps putting up points, it's inevitable that all three will gain confidence.
And that is undoubtedly one of the keys to Backstrom's game, so if Washington's power play continues to produce, he'll only get better from here.
Well, we all knew it would be hard for Ovechkin to dominate like he did in 2013, but at least eight games into this young season, the reigning league MVP has been on fire.
With seven goals, the three-time Rocket Richard winner is tied with four others for the league lead, but three of those players have skated in more games than the Russian superstar.
In addition, Ovechkin has continued to diversify his game, finding new ways to get open despite often drawing double coverage in the offensive zone.
Yes, Ovechkin still heavily relies on power-play opportunities (he's tied with Patrick Marleau as the No. 1 PP sniper with four goals thus far), but given that every opponent designs defensive game plans to limit his chances, his numbers are still very impressive.
Though I would be very surprised to see him continue to score at this clip and hit 60 goals, if the Capitals continue to be lethal with the man advantage, 50 goals and 90 points are very much within his reach.
No, Mike Green hasn't scored yet this season, but the two-time First Team All-Star has still been Washington's top rearguard, and that's saying something for a guy that was once considered a one-way defender.
After a couple of disappointing years filled with nagging injuries, Green bounced back in 2012-13 to lead all defensemen in goals with 12 in 25 games, and he's continued to be solid offensively this season.
Sure, he's a minus-four, but his steadiness with the puck on his stick is refreshing on a team with a number of players lacking experience on the back end, and once he does find the back of the net, expect Green to once again be among the league's most productive blueliners.
After a very impressive first outing as a member of the Capitals, in which Mikhail Grabovski potted a hat trick against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the offense hasn't come nearly as easy for the former Toronto standout.
Since his four-point outing against Chicago, Grabovski has yet to find the back of the net in seven games and has a relatively paltry two assists over that span as well.
And now, after having been demoted to the third line to make room for Martin Erat (who tallied three assists in his first game alongside Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer), it's tough to see how Grabovski will turn things around statistically in a hurry at even strength.
He's played well for the Capitals despite his temporary decline in production, and given that he's been a fixture on Washington's top-ranked power play, one has to think that the 29-year-old will still manage to get his 50 points.
It also certainly doesn't hurt that he's playing for his next contract.
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