2011 NHL Predictions: 4 Reasons the Washington Capitals Will Win the Stanley Cup
Since 2007-08, the Capitals have accumulated one Presidents' Trophy, four Southeast Division banners and one repeatedly angry D.C. crowd.
With Sidney Crosby and his Penguins already traveling to the Stanley Cup Finals twice and winning it once, Alex Ovechkin and his Capitals are looking a little embarrassed that their star-studded cast of role players and superstars can't get the job done in the postseason.
The crowd at the Verizon center isn't just embarrassed; they're fuming. They know that Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green and company aren't getting any younger and the window on NHL immortality is closing fast.
This season will cement Ovechkin and the Capitals as the force that the rest of the league knows they can be.
Enjoy the slideshow!
One Question Mark: Mike Green and Injuries
Although Mike Green can't be excused for some of his recent step-backs this past season, he can be excused for the video here. After putting up 76 points on the seemingly unstoppable Caps in 2009-10, Green was expected to contribute at the same level this past year. Only registering 24 points in 49 games last season doesn't quite live up to those expectations.
The biggest question mark is whether or not Green can return to his outstanding offensively-capable role that all Washington fans know he can fill. Obviously shaken up by injuries throughout the season, this roadblock could be out of the hands of Caps' management.
With Green in his contract year, it is not unquestionable to believe that he can and will fight for his right to earn the big bucks this coming season by returning to the Green of 2009-10.
4. Brooks Laich
The recent recipient of a six-year, $27 million contract, Brooks Laich is the unsung hero of the Washington Capitals. The Laich situation started to turn worrisome as the July 1 deadline loomed closer, but the Capitals team finally made the right decision to lock him up for the long haul.
Laich is one of the best two-way forwards in the game, able to block shots, hit and be a monster on the penalty kill. Averaging 53 points over the past three seasons doesn't hurt either.
One quality that is often hard to measure is the desire to compete. After a tough loss, all players are expected to be sad and a little disappointed. Laich looks determined. He constantly drives to prove that his team deserves to be the best in the league. With Laich on deck, Washington has the potential to be Stanley Cup winners.
3. Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth
Czech vs. Czech, Tomas vs. Michal or Vokoun vs. Neuvirth will be the story all season. And you know what they say, competition breeds excellence. Both goaltenders have the skills to be a No. 1 netminder on any club—Washington just happens to have both of them.
Although it is expected that Vokoun will take the majority of the playing time (about 65 percent I'd say), Neuvirth will be eager for the chance to prove himself even more than he already has.
Vokoun adds experience that Neuvirth just doesn't have yet, making him extremely valuable come playoff time. This is crucial because Neuvirth did not appear to be able to handle the added pressure of the playoffs.
Neuvirth dropped from first-round dominance to second-round impotence, never posting higher than a .870 save percentage in four games against the Lightning. Having another goaltender to take the load off could really help propel the Caps to a Stanley Cup victory this season.
2. Added Forward Depth
With the addition of Troy Brouwer, Washington added a proven 20-goal scorer, a big physical winger and most importantly, a team player. The Capitals needed more of these types of players in the past in order to get them over the postseason hump. They also added Joel Ward, recent playoff hero for Nashville and faceoff specialist Jeff Halpern.
Because of all the top six talent that the Caps possess, their forward depth can sometimes be overlooked. This year it can be expected that the top three lines will contribute offensively and also be defensively capable. Look for Washington's new additions to lead them into the playoffs with a head of steam next season.
1. A Fire Lit Under Ovechkin
Sure the commercial is from last offseason. Sure Ovechkin didn't reach expectations this season. Sure people are questioning his dominance.
The 2011-12 season will prove once and for all why Ovechkin is the greatest hockey player in the world. Several sources have confirmed that Ovie has started training a full half-month before he did last offseason in order to return to his 65-goal scoring form. A quote from the ongoing Alex Ovechkin blog had Ovie saying this regarding his training:
Last season was so-so... It seemed that I also was training well, but ... It was evident that something went not right. So I learn from my mistakes and decided to do more. In order not to repeat the bad season, it is necessary to change something. So I began restructuring from the very first stage of training.
Ovechkin knows the pressure he is under from his fans, his city and the league in general. He will not bend under this pressure and will be skating with the Cup in June.
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