The Washington Capitals approach the 2021-22 season drawing +2500 odds at DraftKings Sportsbook to win the Stanley Cup, a price that places them dangerously close to “middle of the pack” territory. They’re placed alongside the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens.
Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2018, the Capitals have struggled to achieve the same degree of success, bowing out in the first round in three subsequent playoff appearances. Perhaps of more concern is the manner in which they’ve been bounced, dropping their last two series by a combined tally of eight games to two.
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In With The Old, Wait For The New?
Washington re-signed their talisman, Alex Ovechkin, to a new deal worth $47.5 million over five years. The three-time Hart Trophy winner — awarded to the league’s Most Valuable Player — scored 42 points (24 goals, 18 assists) in 45 games. He’ll be 36 when the season starts, and a long-shot (+3300) to add a fourth Hart Trophy to his collection. It’s worth noting, though, that he is only one season removed from earning his ninth Richard Trophy — awarded to the league’s top goal scorer — so we’re not talking about a player on his last legs.
While Ovechkin’s new deal ensures he won’t be surrendering his status as face of the franchise anytime soon, 20-year-old top prospect Connor McMichael is waiting in the wings. The young center led Hershey (AHL) with 14 goals and 27 points in 33 games and made his Capitals debut in 2021. The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir cautions, however, that McMichael could receive a full dose of seasoning before establishing an NHL foothold in 2022-23.
From The Boss’s Mouth
General manager Brian MacLellan expresses optimism in his team and suggests they can achieve success this season.
“With ‘Ovi’ signing back and a lot of returning players, I think we had a lot of positives last year. I think the team was top six, seven in the league (in points). Specialty teams were up top 10 in the league. Underperformed in the playoffs a little bit, but I think we’ll be competitive with the best teams in the league this year.”
He also speaks frankly about what they need from center Evgeny Kuznetsov, a wildcard heading into the season, but someone the Caps will need if they’re to reach — and eclipse — their ceiling.
“We need him to play at his highest ability, and if he can’t play at his highest ability, we’re not going to be a good team…”
As we’ve seen in sports — and hockey in particular — it only takes a ticket to the dance to make noise in the postseason. For now, the Capitals are overshadowed by the league’s premier teams, but they’re not a group that should be written off as an eventual contender.