In this week’s snapshot, Peter offered his assessment of the Caps’ chances this Spring in the playoffs:
However they looked in October and whatever hot streaks we’ve seen this season, the Capitals are not a championship team. (Or, if they are, we haven’t seen evidence of it lately.) They’re not bad like under Adam Oates (and for that I am grateful) but they’re not great. They’re just good. They’re a good team with a good coach.
Unless the bounces go bad or they draw a tough team, these Capitals should make it into the second round of the playoffs. No further.
I tend to agree with Peter. The Caps are a solid team. And while anything can happen once you get into the playoffs, I wouldn’t put any kind of money on this being the Caps’ year. They are a good team, but they are not currently a Cup-caliber team.
But, like I said, anything can happen once you’re in the playoffs. So let’s look at three reasons the Caps could win the Cup, beyond the fact that hockey, much like life, is often more random and unpredictable than we can comprehend. And then to be end on a downer, we’ll look at three reasons the Caps won’t win the Cup.
Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom are arguably the best duo in the NHL
What a time to be a Caps fan, eh? Sometimes it’s easy to overlook just how good these two are. We are currently watching one of the best duos in the NHL, and the two greatest Capitals ever, in their prime. Here’s a few graphics on how good they are
If only they could play 60 minutes a game.
Since 2005-06, 265 forwards have skated 6000-plus minutes. When putting these players on a graph, with the x-axis showing goals per 60 minutes of ice time, and the y-axis showing assists per 60 minutes of ice time, the Caps’ two superstar players standout from the crowd.
These guys are good enough to lead a Cup-caliber team to a Stanley Cup. Be wary of any narrative that criticizes a player for his team’s shortcomings, such as not winning a Cup.
Braden Holtby is an elite goalie, capable of carrying a team for extended periods
Braden Holtby has established himself as an elite goalie this season. Pardon me while I go all “I told you so.” I told you so. Peter also told you so. Every once in a while, we get something right around here.
Over the past calendar year, only four goalies have a better save percentage than Holtby (via War on Ice, minimum 2400 minutes played)
Between December 2 and January 14, the Caps got points in 19 of 20 games. Holby’s save percentage of 94.51 during that span ranked second only to Carey Price, who is the best goalie in the world right now. If Holtby can play at that level for a couple months once mid-April hits, he could win the Caps a Cup– much like Tim Thomas did for Boston in 2010-11.
Barry Trotz is a really good coach, the best the team has had since Bruce Boudreau
Barry Trotz is a better coach than Dale Hunter or Adam Oates. He has the defensemen once again playing meaningful and active roles on the team. Ovechkin is getting praised for playing a better overall game. His players find him demanding but respect the hell out of him.
At times, we’ve been critical of Trotz, but I think we’ve done a good job of framing that within a context that acknowledges Trotz is a good coach who has done wonders for this team. I’ll take the guy behind the bench entering the playoffs this season over the two guys who were there before him.
Okay, now that we’re all feeling good, let’s all come back down to earth a bit. Like I said from the jump, the Caps are not a favorite to win the Cup. Here are a few reasons why
On offense, there’s no depth after Ovechkin and Backstrom
Early last week, I looked at how the Caps don’t get enough shots from forwards not named Ovechkin. J.P. of Japers’ Rink had a poignant tweet the other day that pretty much sums up the lack of scoring punch up front that is likely to doom this team.
— Japers' Rink (@JapersRink) March 24, 2015
The Caps played their best hockey earlier in the season
In other words, this team has gotten worse as the season has gone on.
Even bigger sigh. The Caps are a worse possession team post-ASB in all three score situations shown above. That’s not what they call “trending in the right direction.”
Trotz’s deployments do not maximize his resources
First line Jay Beagle. Top-9/power play Jason Chimera. The list goes on.
Anyone who has read my articles this season or follows me on Twitter knows I find the usage, or lack thereof, of Andre Burakovksy and Nate Schmidt to be the most troubling of all of the head coach’s confounding deployments.
Let’s take a look at Burakovsky first. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, so let’s just take a quick glance at his productivity compared to other Caps’ forwards.
The ideal spot to be here is in the top right, with a blue circle. Not too shabby from number 65, eh?
And then there’s Nate Schmidt. I don’t dislike the acquisition of Tim Gleason. He’s certainly an upgrade over Jack Hillen. While I may seem to be splitting hairs here when talking about the Caps’ choice of sixth defenseman, this is more about maximizing one of the team’s most dangerous weapons, Mike Green. Here’s how Green has done this season with and without his eternally smiling partner.
Even if there is something to be said about Gleason’s “grit” being better suited for the playoffs than Schmidt’s style of play, I consider maximizing Green’s abilities to trump any of that.
If someone forced me to predict how this season will end for the Caps, I’d say they’ll get knocked out in the second round. If I’m feeling saucy, I may even say they’ll meet their maker in the Eastern Conference finals. But really, they aren’t a Cup contender so, to me, they’re playing with house money once the playoffs start.
A lot would have to go right for this team to win the Cup. At this point, I’d consider it an upset if the 2014-15 Caps end up as Stanley Cup Champions.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.