The Washington Capitals could not have dreamt of a better start to their season. Not only do they sit atop the Metropolitan Division by six points past the halfway point of the season, but they have had plenty to be excited about for the present season and future seasons. First of all, Alex Ovechkin has continued to defy age and ceases to amaze. The Caps captain and career points leader, who celebrated his tenth consecutive year being captain this season, just pulled off a hot streak that even he had never experienced. The great eight, as he is otherwise known as, has had eight goals in three games before the all star game according to NBC sports network, including a back-to-back hat trick for the first time in his career. Ovechkin is on pace for another 60 plus goal season and remains one of the top players in the league. Moving on to Ovechkin’s partner-in-crime, and the Caps career assists leader, Nicklas Backstrom, who was signed to a five year, 46 million dollar deal, according to espn.com. This means Backstrom, who is also playing at an elite level and makes Ovechkin even more lethal, will get to finish his career as a Capital and ensure his place as a Capital legend. However, it is not just the old guys that have been playing well. 23 year-old Jacob Vrana is having a career year, with 23 goals on the year, and according to the Washington Post he is one goal shy of his career best with almost half of the season remaining. He is also on a hot streak, according to the Washington Post he has eight goals in his last nine games. Another young player, 22 year-old Ilya Samsonov, has shined in goal so far. The rookie goalie is 15-2-1 this season according to the Washington Post, and may be the successor to Bradyn Holtby sooner rather than later.
While there have been some major individual improvements, it is fair to wonder why this team is doing so much better than last year’s team, which lost to Carolina in the first round? Well, the issue with last year’s team was a lack of depth, so while the first couple lines were good, so of the lower lines like the third and fourth lines were a problem. The success of the Caps fourth line this year has been the key to their team’s success. The Caps have, according to NBC sports network, possibly “the outright best fourth line in hockey.” Garnet Hathaway, Nic Dowd, and Brandon Lepsic have done a great job at keeping the puck in the offensive zone and getting shots to the net.
As with any professional sports team, there are a few negatives. Bradyn Holtby has not been great, especially lately, for the Caps. Also, their power play is one of the worst in the league right now.However, those negatives are few and far between. Overall, this season thus far has been a whole boatload of positives for the Caps. They need to keep their momentum going into the playoffs, but for right now they have placed themselves firmly in the conversation for the cup.