Everyone in the NHL is expecting the Washington Capitals to repeat as regular-season champions. Everyone around Washington hopes the Capitals don’t repeat as first-round flops in the postseason.
The Capitals have won three consecutive Southeast Division crowns. Anything short of a divisional crown this year would be a shock considering this team’s ability and the rest of the division’s shortcomings.
But the regular season is not the endgame in Washington. The Capitals’ regular-season point total has increased from 94 in 2007-08, to 108 in 2008-09, and finally 121 last season. But only once during that span have the Capitals advanced past the first round and they have not reached the Eastern Conference Finals since Alexander Ovechkin arrived.
Since Ovi arrived in Washington, the Capitals have looked anything but dominant in the postseason. Their four playoff series in the last three years have all gone seven games, and only once did Washington ever win the deciding Game 7.
Yet there is no one around the organization hitting the panic button or calling for wholesale changes. The Capitals enter this season the same way they have the past few, with high expectations and a similar roster to the previous season.
Ovechkin put up impressive numbers again last season (50 goals and 59 assists), especially considering he played a career-low 72 games. More important was the supporting cast around him with Nicklas Backstrom leading the team in assists with 68, Alexander Semi scoring 40 goals and adding 44 assists, and defensemen Mike Green (76 points) and Brooks Laich (59 points) fitting right in with coach Bruce Boudreau’s offense-first philosophy.
The Washington Capitals schedule finds them in Atlanta to open their season on Friday Oct. 8. The date circled on most NHL fan’s calendars is New Year's Day when the Capitals play the Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field in the Winter Classic. But before the teams meet outdoors in Pittsburgh they will play for the first time in Washington on Dec. 23. The Capitals embark on their longest road trip of the season in mid-March, a six-game swing that begins and ends at Montreal, the No. 8 seed who stunned them last season.
The goalie situation will be a battle between Simeon Varlamov (2.55 GAA last season) and Michal Neuvirth (2.75 GAA), but the Capitals signed goalie Dany Sabourin as an insurance policy. They traded for enforcer D.J. King to fill a major void that has been there since Donald Brashear left for the Rangers last season. With the season fast approaching the Capitals signed forward Matt Hendricks. The veteran who last played in Colorado last season will have a great shot at making the team.
Washington Capitals Predictions: Outlook
When it comes to talent, the Washington Capitals are on a different level than most teams. The lack of overall changes to the coaching staff or roster is a testament to the dominance Washington has enjoyed in the regular season.
The Southeast Division is theirs to lose, and some NHL handicappers would even say the Eastern Conference is theirs to lose. Duplicating the franchises first-ever Presidents’ Trophy from last season is a possibility, but even if the Capitals do not finish the season with the best record they will undoubtedly be a Stanley Cup contender.
Washington Capitals Future Odds
The Capitals are the odds-on favorite to win the Southeast Division (-900), the Eastern Conference (+250), and the Stanley Cup (+450). Their ‘over/under’ for points (108.5) and wins (50.5) are both the highest in the league. The odds-makers clearly feel that Washington is the unquestioned team to beat this season.
NHL Predictions for Washington Capitals
There is absolutely no value in laying -900 odds for a team to win a division. And there is not much value in Washington to win the Eastern Conference or win the Stanley Cup considering they have not gotten past the second round of the playoffs since 1998.
The total of 108.5 points does look promising considering they finished with 121 points last season. Even if they suffer a 12-point decline from last season, the Capitals will still go ‘over’ the total of 108.5. And this team actually has the ability to improve by 12 points. Take Washington ‘over’ 108.5 points, but steer clear of the Capitals’ other futures odds.