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Whatâ€™s Next For The Capitals?
By Victor Cabrera
The Washington Capitals had the best record in the NHL (56-18-8) allowing them to claim the President’s trophy in the 2015-2016 season. Lead by their two offensive Russian stars, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov and their goaltender Braden Holtby the caps were able to cap off an astounding regular season. Both Home and away the Capitals did very well with similar winning records. At home, they were 29-8-4 while on the road they were 27-10-4. The road was not going to be a disadvantage as they had proven in the regular season. As the top seed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals were expected by their fans and around the league to make the same impact they had done during the season. The goal of the Stanley Cup was not reached even with the Caps being in their zeal. The glorious season came to an end during the 2nd round of the playoffs in a 4-2 series loss to divisional rivals, and future Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The key players of the 2015-2016 season Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, and Holtby were significant factors to why the Capitals had a stupefying season. Ovechkin was the league leading goal scorer with 50 and 21 assists to his credit. Yet, Ovechkin would not be the leading point scorer for Washington. Evgeny Kuznetsov was both the top assist giver and top point man for the Capitals. He had 20 goals and 57 assists for the team leading point total and number 10 in the league for points. Braden Holtby would have the best season of all Capitals players as he had a record-tying and league leading stat of 48 wins in a single season. Martin Brodeur was the previous to do so with the New Jersey Devils. Holtby played in 66 games achieving a mark of 48-9-7. While three of his wins were a shut out. However, things went awry in the playoffs.
In the first round the lowest seed, the divisional rivals, Philadelphia Flyers would be the Capitals opponent. With the Caps winning the first three games of the series it seemed like they were going to sweep the flyers, get extra rest, and stay hot but it took a wild turn. The red-hot offense was shut down in Games 4 and 5 allowing the Flyers to survive and doubts were the Capitals could be in serious trouble. Nicklas Backstrom however, would send the Flyers packing as he would score the only goal in Game 6 thus allowing the Capitals to move onto the next round where they would face the Penguins. Another divisional rival and Pennsylvania team in the playoffs but with a different outcome. The Caps would take Game 1 with a hard fought overtime decider. Momentum was on their side while, Pittsburgh came back hard and took Games 2, 3, and 4 placing the Capitals against the wall and in a must win to survive. The Capitals won Game 5 by a score of 3-1 and survived to Game 6. With another must win game the Capitals trailed 3-1 and forced overtime by scoring twice in the 3rd period. Nick Bonino would take matters into his own hands and eliminate the Capitals with his overtime goal. Another postseason heartbreak for Ovi and his Capitals along with the fans.
The 3-star players were shut down in the playoffs despite the red-hot offense and goaltending in the first round. Kuznetsov was held to a goal and assist in the total 12 games. Ovechkin would score five goals and dish out seven assists in 12 games an average of one point per game. Holtby went .500 in the playoffs 6-6 recording two shutouts. The key players were shut down in numerous games in both series and the result was a crushing loss to the Penguins in round two.
For next season the Capitals should keep the same plan of having Ovechkin score a high number of goals around the 40+ range and Kuznetsov playing alongside him to dish out helpers and score some goals. Holtby must be kept healthy and play the first game of back to backs on road trips to avoid fatigue. Consistency will be key as the Capitals must be able to bring a good regular season into the postseason to achieve the goal of playing for Lord Stanley.
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