There are many Caps playoff stories to watch, but long-time
fans, myself included, view the playoffs with anxiety, not excitement. There is
too much in the history books I’d rather forget related to this team in the playoffs.
But, I’m glad the players are excited and I hope they play like they did Saturday
versus the St. Louis Blues, a team fighting for a division title that the Caps
dominated with an Alex Ovechkin hat trick.
It is a new second season and time for the Caps to step up
The Caps stories to watch in the playoffs:
Can the Captain Alex
Ovechkin, lead his team past the second round of the playoffs? Ovie shows
up in the playoffs and is an almost point per game scorer with 36G 34A 70P in
72 games. The bigger the game and the venue, the more he turns on the after
Will Nicklas Backstrom
make his presence felt this playoffs? He is 20G 50A 70P in 75 games and is +17.
He was hampered by injury during the
last playoffs, but Caps need the guy with the “A” on his jersey to not only win
faceoffs and make great plays, but also win battles and be willing to throw it all
on the ice for the Cup.
Can the other leaders on the team and on the bench, Justin Williams and Brooks Orpik, in particular, keep the
Caps focused on battling instead of getting rattled when they face adversity in
the playoffs? Their experience in coming from behind should help, too.
Williams has been a joy to watch this year. His game is more
subtle than other players, but watching him win battles along the board, make
plays, and score goals has been fun. But, it is his playoff experience that is even
more important to the Caps. He is constantly coaching on the bench, chatting away
with his line mates, pointing out things to improve. They will need that even
more from Williams starting now. He is a huge key to the Caps ability to be
successful in the playoffs.
Orpik is the leader of the defense. Even though he spent the
better part of this season injured, his presence in Washington has made the team
better. John Carlson learned a lot
from him and so did Karl Alzner. His health and leadership are critical for the
T.J. Oshie, the
energizer bunny, as Ovie calls him, is another critical cog in this playoff
adventure. He leads by example on the ice because Oshie plays hard on every
shift. He has his own playoff demons with the Blues, so now is his opportunity
to exorcise them.
Can Karl Alzner
and Matt Niskanen continue playing
great defense? Alzner had a career year during the regular season. This pairing
logged the heavy minutes all season and successfully kept the Caps in many
Will the young wizard Evgeny
Kuznetsov regain his form and repeat his playoff performance from last
season? He only has 4 points in 12 games. But, he showed up big time in his
first playoffs with 5G 2A 7P in 14 games.
Can John Carlson stay healthy? He has had a
rough year health-wise and the Caps need his ability to make an efficient outlet
Will Braden Holtby be the stand on his head, keep
the Caps in so many games goalie, that fans saw earlier in the season? He is a
competitor, so the brighter lights should lead to him regaining his better form
from earlier in the season. Holtby’s performance has improved the last several
Can Marcus Johansson play
in the playoffs like he played this season? He finally found some grit to this
game and even spent 16-minutes in the penalty box, his most as a Cap.
Will Tom Wilson play smart in the playoffs? His
play and skating improved so much this season, but he still makes bone-headed
plays at bad moments. On the other hand, Wilson is the agitator, get under the
skin of other players, type of player that the Caps can use in the playoffs. Can
his frequent line mates Jason Chimera and
Jay Beagle keep the chemistry going
and keep producing? It is nice to have the faceoff specialist, Beagle, back in
Can Andre Burakovsky and
Dmitri Orlov perform in the playoffs?
They both had good seasons. It will be interesting to see how they respond to
the slug fest of the second season.
Many story lines to explore as things unfold starting with
the arrival of the Philadelphia Flyers to the Verizon Center on Thursday night.
I hope the Caps get out of the first round because I do not
need a second dog. The last one arrived in May 2010, when I could not watch the
Caps implode during game 7 of the first round versus the Montreal Canadians. They won the President’s trophy that year, too.
Let’s go Caps!
Labels: Alex Ovechkin, NHL, Washington Capitals