The Capitals started out as a strong team in the beginning of this decade. They were a playoff team all the way until they stripped themselves down in the 2003-2004 season to rebuild for the future.
That season saw a lot of players leave, including long-time Caps Peter Bondra and Sergei Gonchar, superstar Jarmior Jagr, and Robert Lang, who led the league in points at the time of his trade.
Then they went through a dark time but gathered pieces that have made the team a legitimate Cup contender, i.e. Alex Ovechkin. There have been a lot of good players that have played for this team and right now there's currently a lot of them. Here's a look at the top 10 of this decade.
Before his injury, E.J Hradek had Varlamov as his pick to be the Calder Memorial winner. Varlamov is the youngest goaltender of all time to post a shutout in the playoffs, and is off to a great start in his first season as a regular on the Caps roster.
He's started to be the goaltender of the future for the Caps and Varlamov doesn't seem to mind the high-risk offense his team plays in front of him.
In 14 starts this year, Varlamov has only one loss in regulation and 12 wins, a 2.25 GAA and a .923 save percentage.
One cause of concern over his play is his focus. If he lets one bad goal in, he seems to be completely thrown off his game. The best example of that was Game Seven in the second round against Pittsburgh.
If Varlamov matures quick in net and gets focus, he could help the Capitals hoist their first Stanley Cup in the June. However, there's no doubt he'll have to go through the Penguins and Marc Andre Fleury to get there.
This is the Picture of Fedorov's game winner in Game Seven of the first round of the 2009 playoffs against the Rangers.
That goal alone puts him on this list because it was the first time the Capitals had advanced past the first round during the entire decade.
Fedorov definitely wasn't the player he was when he played for the Red Wings, but he provided a lot of leadership to this young team, and was instrumental in helping guys like Alexander Semin and Alexander Ovechkin mature as players. He was known as the serious one among the Russian players on the team, which may be hard to take seriously because Fedorov has been known to be quite the party guy from his days in Detroit.
He only played a season and half for the Capitals, but he was instrumental to both their playoff runs in those two post seasons. He was the best guy Boudreau could have asked for out of a veteran. He would even play defense in some games for him.
It didn't matter what his role was or what position he played, he excelled at them and helped the team win back to back Southeast division titles.
In 229 games in this decade, Oates tallied a 182 assists and 221 points. He was the ultimate setup man for this team and had been the best that the Capitals have had until Nicklas Backstrom has stormed into the NHL to make a very destructive duo with Ovechkin. Oates and Bondra were the center pieces to the Capitals offense in the beginning of this decade. He'll be a future hall of famer one day as he's one of the greatest play-makers of all time. It was a sad day to see him leave the Nations Capital at the 2002 deadline.
One of the guys whose name is often left out when describing this team's core in Brooks Laich. This guy does a lot for the Capitals. He can do it all, score goals, set guys up, digs in the corners, power-play, penalty kill, check, or block shots. He's a guy that is often depended on to help hold a lead in the late minutes of a game. He's also stepped up in the past couple years to provide secondary scoring and help take the offensive burdens from the top line. He'll stay in front of the net to create traffic and is a big guy that's hard to move. He's the ultimate team player, a guy that knows that the puck and the team are more important than his own well being. He is a very underrated two way player.
Gonchar was the anchor of the Capitals blue line since his 1995. He was one of the best puck moving defensemen the Capitals have ever had and it wasn't until Mike Green broke out in 2007-2008 that they were able to fill the void left by him from when he was traded in 2004 to the Bruins. His trade though has helped bring in two more guys who are part of the team now with Shoane Morrisonn and a first round draft pick that ended being Jeff Schultz. In 363 games during this decade, Gonchar posted 81 goals and 237 points. Which is the most of any defense man during this decade. Gonchar finally won a cup last year to go along with what may well be a hall of fame career when he's finished, unfortunately for Cap fans though, Gonchar was essential in helping eliminate them this past spring.
Mike Green is the Capitals number one defense men and has become the first part of their offense as well. Green is a very gifted skater with natural speed, he can make a great first pass out of their zone or skate the puck himself to the opposing teams. He has a great wrist shot that has scored him countless goals on the power play and a very booming slap shot from the point. Along with Ovechkin, Green mans the point on the first power-play unit, which has become one of the most deadly in the NHL since Green has blossomed into a scoring threat. Last year, Green did two things that were quite amazing, he broke an NHL record for most consecutive games with goals where he scored 10 goals in eight games, and he was the first defenseman to score 30 plus goals and be a point per game player in almost two decade's. There's been cause for concern about his play in his own zone and his condition but Green has improved in both those area's so far this season.
Alexander Semin is the second best Russian player on the Capitals and one of the top six Russian forwards in the entire world right now. Semin came to the Capitals a year after being drafted in the 2003-2004 season and also opted not to return the first season after the lockout. Which may have been a good thing for the Capitals because if Semin had played that season, they may not have been able to draft Nicklas Backstrom 4th overall that year. Nonetheless, Semin has been instrumental important to the Capitals offense providing another lethal scoring weapon behind Ovechkin. Teams have had problems shutting down Ovechkin since he came into the NHL, but if they do succeed, Semin is right there to pick up the slack. He has shown he is one of the best danglers in the NHL and one of the quickest and most lethal wrist shots as well. There's only been two causes of concern over Semin and that's taking stupid penalties and his durability. In the beginning of the 2008-2009 season, when Ovechkin was having his worst start of his career, Semin was having his best, which is why the Capitals were still winning. He won player of the month honors in October and was leading the NHL in goals and points before he was sidelined for most of November with a shoulder injury. The most Semin has played in a season has been 77 games in 2006-2007 and has never played more than 65 games in a season any other time. But in 282 games, Semin has scored 122 goals and 247 points. He has hit the 30 plus goal plateau twice in his career and was able to score 34 goals and 79 points in only 62 games last year. One thing the Capitals would like of Semin, is to be better in the playoffs. He was great in the first round against the Rangers but wasn't as effective in the second round against Pittsburgh. If both Semin and Ovechkin stay hot in the playoffs, a Cup will come to Washington this year. After this year, Semin will be a restricted free agent, the Capitals hope to re-sign him to roughly around the 5 million cap hit he currently has but he could get as much as 6 to 7 million in an offer sheet. However, I don't see him leaving his best friend Ovechkin in Washington.
Bondra was the Capitals scoring threat before Ovechkin. He is the team leader in goals (472) and points (825). He's also the team leader in power play goals (137) and short handed goals (32). In this decade Bondra scored 156 goals and 280 points in 351 games. He lead the team in scoring two out of the five season's he's played this decade. Bondra wasn't the same player as he was throughout the 90's but he was still one of their best offensive weapons to play for them this decade. For some reason though, the Capitals have yet to retire his number since Bondra has retired in 2007.
Backstrom is only in his third season of his career but he's already one of the best players to ever play for the Capitals this decade. It's no coincidence that Ovechkin broke the record for most goals by a left winger in a season in Backstrom's first year as well as the Capitals winning the Southeast division title. In his rookie season, Backstrom broke the franchise record for most assists by a rookie. In 201 games he's tallied 149 assists and 199 points. Backstrom has gotten better ever year and this year he's projected to break the 30 goal mark and over 90 points. This guy has great hockey sense and unbelievable play-making abilities. He's younger than Crosby but I believe Backstrom will be on the same par as Crosby in a sense of passing skills. It doesn't hurt having Ovechkin as your line mate either. There's some concern over his face offs but Backstrom in all other aspects is a great center. He's becoming one of the best in the entire league and the Capitals will make him their first priority to re-sign him to a long term deal when he's entry level deal ends at the end of this year. Last year, Backstrom and Ovechkin tallied to be the most destructive duo with most goals scored where both of them had a point.
Olli the Goalie as he was most known as or Kolgzilla. Kolzig was the Capitals best goaltender of all time. It was a sad day for long time Capital fans to see him go unsigned by the Capitals at the end of the 2008 season. This man brought the Capitals to their only Stanley Cup finals appearance in 1998. He holds the records for most games played (710) and wins (301). In this decade he won them 233 games in the 512 games and additional 66 points in ties and OTL. He won a Vezina in 2000 for the best goaltender in the NHL when he won 41 games 2.24 GAA and a .917Sv% and a King Clancy Memorial in 2006. It was hard for Kolzig when the team made a trade for Huet to make him their starter for the rest of the season and playoffs but Kolzig was a true professional about the situation. He was also vital to help Ovechkin assimilate to the North American culture as they were room mates when Ovechkin first came over. Kolzig's best years were from 1999-2003 where he never had less than 30 wins. The latter part of the decade wasn't as easy for Kolzig as he had no help from offense or defense to help him win games. Nonetheless, Kolzig number will be honored and retired in the near future.
Was there any doubt on who number one would be? Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander the Gr8, or Ovi, whatever you wanna call them has arguably been the greatest player of this decade. In 353 games, Ovi has scored 243 goals and 464 points. No player has scored more goals than Ovechkin has since the broke out into the NHL in 2005-2006. He's won the Calder Memorial for best rookie, broke the Capitals franchise record for rookie goals (52), most goals in a season (65-NHL record for a left wing), two Harts, two Lester B. Persons, an Art Ross, and two Maurice Richard trophies. Out of the four full seasons he's played he's been nominated for the Hart trophy and Lester B. Person three times. This year will be no different as Ovechkin will most likely be nominated and could win his third straight Hart and Lester. B person awards and despite time missed could win still win his third straight Maurice Richard. Which will make him the only person ever to win it three times. Despite missing 7 games, Ovechkin is 5th in points and is only 7 points out of first place. Ovechkin's goal is to bring a Cup for the very first time to the nation's capital. If the Capitals win the Cup, Ovechkin will most likely receive the Conn Smythe, which could arguable make him the greatest player in the World with no argument. There's no denying that the Great 8 is the most electrifying player in the world right now as countless of his goals have made countless highlight reels. Ovechkin high light films are the most watched of any NHL player on youtube. Could this be the year he brings home Lord Stanley and captures a Gold medal. If so, he'll be one of very few who have ever won a gold medal, a world championship and a Stanley Cup their careers. When Ovechkin hangs up his skates the debate will be Gretzky or Ovechkin?