NHL: Will 2011 Be the Washington Capital's Year?

Jorge NunoContributor IJuly 9, 2011

The decisive factor in a Capitals' run for the Cup?
The decisive factor in a Capitals' run for the Cup?Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

After another disappointing playoff exit, the Washington Capitals might just see their fortunes change.

Alexander Ovechkin has been the NHL's most exciting and popular player for the past six years now, but has always failed to carry the Capitals to lifting the Cup. Not entirely his fault, not by a long shot, but you always expect your team's top player to step up when it matters the most—right Canucks fans?

And the Capitals can't really say that they don't have a team that's strong enough to go the distance.

Ovechkin, Michal Neuvirth, Alexander Semin, Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom provide some guarantees for the future of the franchise on many levels, as well as some talent and depth to get the results they need. However, it hasn't proven sufficient to fulfill the team's expectations.

But 2010 had a lot of positives for the team hailing from DC.

Once again they didn't miss the playoffs, and despite returning home earlier than they certainly wanted, they had some periods of the season were their post-season spot looked to be in jeopardy.

And what better example of that than the period perfectly described during the documentary series "24/7 Penguins/Capitals Road to the Winter Classic."

More than yet another Sidney Crosby versus Alexander Ovechkin showdown, this proved to be the turning point of a somewhat struggling season for the Capitals. Better yet, it proved that if there was one thing the team was not lacking, it was heart.

However, relying solely on the will to play has proven to be insufficient to carry a team to the biggest prize in the sport. The Nashville Predators serve as a perfect example.

So, what have the Washington Capitals been lacking all this time that has kept them from reaching Lord Stanley's Cup?

Thomas Vokoun may well be the one with the answer to this question—and the answer should be something in the likes of desperation to win.

Vokoun has been one of the NHL's top goaltenders for a long time now. He has served as net-minder during some of the team's most under-performing times in recent years. And he realizes his time to win the Stanley Cup may be running out soon, now that he is at 35.

This thought on his mind will undoubtedly spread to the rest of the Capital's roster, and his talent alone will be enough to carry them to the next level. Not since Olaf Kolzig have the Washington Capitals had a goaltender capable of carrying them to the Finals.

It turns out to be one of the most curious facts about their roster, since they can't blame their recent goalie tandems for not getting the job done. But you can't stop thinking about Raymond Bourque's "Cinderella story" with the Colorado Avalanche—and what good it ended up doing for the team.

Like so many times before, the question will be asked once more prior to the 2011 season opener. Are the Washington Capitals Stanley Cup bound?

Even if the answer turns out to be "no" at the end of the season (yet again), the arrival of Vokoun will makes sure that it will change in the not so distant future.