5 Washington Capitals Storylines That Won't Go Away During 2013-14 Season

Ryan DavenportContributor IDecember 18, 2013

5 Washington Capitals Storylines That Won't Go Away During 2013-14 Season

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    The Washington Capitals have had more good times than bad as we close in on the beginning of the second half of the 2013-14 season, sitting at 18-13-3 thus far. 

    It's been full of stunning comebacks, blowout losses and a handful of concerning injuries to key players, so needless to say, the last 34 games have produced no shortage of drama. 

    This past back-to-back game series with the Flyers was a perfect example of that: One night the Caps showed up to play when it mattered and stole a win against Philadelphia, but then they went out and laid an egg on the road. 

    Heading into a critical stretch in the schedule, here's a look at the storylines that won't go away. 

Trade Demands

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    So far, two members of the Capitals have requested trades, but neither has produced a move just yet.

    Martin Erat's request is arguably more understandable than youngster Dmitry Orlov, although Erat demanded a trade out of Nashville just under a year ago, and the veteran winger's stock has plummeted since.

    Orlov's is probably in the past due to the amount of ice he's seen in the weeks since, but one has to think Erat's departure is imminent.

    He has 10 assists on the year after averaging more than 50 points a year for eight seasons with the Predators, so unfortunately for George McPhee, the return on the former Czech Olympian won't be great.

Alex Ovechkin's Continued Dominance

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    During the second half of last season, Ovechkin finally started to look like the guy who scored 50 or more goals and 100-plus points in four of his first five seasons, capturing his third league MVP award in the process.

    And so far in 2013-14, the Russian captain has been arguably more dominant than ever before, as he currently leads the NHL in goals with 28 in 32 games, which is six more than Alex Steen, his closest competitor.

    In addition, Ovechkin's astounding .88 goals per game is the highest of his career, and that's impressive given that he's the career leader in that category among active players.

    If the Caps are going to make any noise in the postseason, Ovechkin will have to continue terrorizing opposing goalies, because he's been the difference between winning and losing on a number of occasions.

Shootout Supremacy

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    Once again, Adam Oates has the Capitals virtually unstoppable in shootouts, and that has been a big reason why the team sits fifth in the East after a horrendous start to the season.

    Eric Fehr, Nicklas Backstrom and Mikhail Grabovski are three of the league's top five shootout scorers, and in particular, Backstrom's been lights out in game-deciding attempts.

    Washington has 23 goals in shootouts, which is eight more than any other team, and the team's eight wins in 11 tries is also by far the league high.

Brooks Laich

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    As an assistant captain and former 20-goal, 50-point man, Brooks Laich is counted upon to contribute at both ends of the ice.

    And after apparently recovering from the injuries that plagued him last season, Laich seemed primed to be a key cog up front for the Caps. But that hasn't happened thus far.

    Most importantly, he's already hit the IR with just six points in 25 games. As a result, the longtime fan favorite is on pace for the worst point totals of his NHL career.

    Yes, Laich brings a lot more to the table than just offensive production, but with his price tag, he needs to have more of an impact on a nightly basis.

Defensive Woes

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    The Caps have remained afloat in the standings largely due to the team's wildly dominant power play (second best in the league) and generally productive offense.

    Unfortunately, as great as the Caps have been on the offensive side of things, Oates' squad has been equally as porous defensively, which is why Washington sits near the bottom of the league in goals against.

    The injury to John Erskine has hurt, but McPhee will likely be pushed into making a midseason deal to add toughness on the back end, because the defense has more than enough offense in Mike Green, John Carlson and Orlov.