After 41 of the 82 games played in the 2017-18 season, the Washington Capitals are the leaders of the Metropolitan Division. Even after the departures of important pieces, the Caps were able to maintain a good level of play.
With a 25-13-3 record, the Capitals finished the first half of the regular season ensuring the leadership of the Metropolitan Division with 53 points and a +11 difference. In the Eastern Conference, they are only behind of the isolated leader Tampa Bay Lightning, which also leads the league with 61 points. In the league overall, the Capitals rank sixth behind Lightning and four Western Conference teams (Vegas, Winnipeg, St. Louis and Los Angeles).
In the end of the 2016-17 season, in addition to the second consecutive elimination in the playoffs for archrival Penguins, the Washington team also saw the departure of important players. Even so, they managed to maintain a good level of play in a difficult Metropolitan Division that dominates the Eastern Conference. The Metropolitan has two of its teams occupying the two Wild Card spots (NY Rangers and Carolina) and three teams right behind (Pittsburgh, NY Islanders and Philadelphia). The last five are from the Atlantic Division.
Age does not seem to have affected Alex Ovechkin. The captain, who turned 32 in September, has scored 26 goals in 41 games and leads the league in this regard. Ovechkin scored a hat trick in the first game of the Caps this regular season leading to a 5-4 win over the Senators in Ottawa. In the next game, he scored four goals in the 6-1 home win over Montreal. With this, Ovi became the first player in 100 years to score hat tricks in the first two consecutive games of a regular season. The Russian, therefore, is on track to pass the mark of 50 goals this season.
Also, other offensive players are getting productive. A brief example isTom Wilson. After building his reputation as a “tough player”, Wilson has had a good season after the series against Toronto in the last playoffs. Jakub Vrana, who is consolidated in the main team this season after being occasionally called by Hershey Bears in the last one, is another one we can exemplify.
The Washington Capitals’ net is well-protected. Braden Holtby and Phillip Grubauer can deal it. In the defensive office, the defensemen need a more solid stance. The Capitals have allowed goals with errors in this office and the non-correction of this can be harmful in the long run. Playoffs, to be more specific.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the conquest of the first and only win of the Eastern Conference by the Capitals. Since then, the Caps have bittered alternating eliminations in one of the first two rounds and seasons unable to qualify.
The season so far has shown us that the Caps are a resilient team that has managed to recover after going through the adversities of the last offseason. This second half is vital for the team to correct their mistakes, so they are going to be able to make a good job in the playoffs.
The Capitals begin their second half of the season tomorrow, hosting the St. Louis Blues at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.