With a brand new season upon us, old foes in a new division, the Washington Capitals and their fans have a lot to look forward to. Gone are the old days of an arguably (but not really) easy division. Back are the days of fighting for a spot in the playoffs. Here are five keys for the team and the fans to look forward to:
1. The Metropolitan Division – Terrible, monopoly sounding division names aside, the Caps are in for a fight if they want to return to the playoffs. They do not have as many easy games against the likes of Florida and Tampa Bay, with many more games against Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and the New York Rangers. They also have to deal with up and coming teams in Columbus and the New York Islanders. It’s going to be a fight to the finish.
2. A Strong Start – Speaking of a tough division, the Caps have to get off to a strong start if they wish to keep up with their fellow Metropolitan powerhouses. The days of slow starts have to be in the past if they want to have a future past early April.
3 – Mikhail Grabovski – If the preseason is any indication, the signing of Mikhail Grabovski could be the deal of the offseason. He looks to be lining up with wingers Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer, so he certainly has the chance for some garbage goals assists.
4. 3rd Line Center – The writing was likely on the wall for center Mathieu Perreault after both Martin Erat and Eric Fehr were tried out at center during the preseason, and it came true when he was traded to Anaheim. Questions still remain as to if Erat, who likely will be between Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr, is a capable center. If he can hold down that spot and develop some chemistry with his wingers, the Caps could roll three scoring lines.
5. Braden Holtby – While the young netminder is arguably the Caps number one goalie, he has yet to play in a full 82 game season. Can he handle the number one spot? How will Michal Neuvirth handle being his back up? How long will his leash be with second year head coach Adam Oates and first year goalie coach Olaf Kolzig? These are questions that will hang around Holtby in his first full NHL season.
There are many other questions about this team. Will they hang onto rookie Tom Wilson for the full season? What about Connor Carrick? Why is Michael Latta still around? In the end, after a long summer of free agency highs and lows, expectations and surprises, all we know is that Caps hockey is back.