A lot of fans and observers around the NHL are going to be watching the Washington Capitals with a curious eye this season. After a shockingly disappointing playoff exit in the first round at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, many thought that this off-season would bring changes to the Capitals lineup in the form of a big-name defenseman, a playmaking second-line center and even perhaps a goalie.
As it turns out, the Capitals did nothing significant at all, choosing to go with their home-grown youth to lead them into this season. Defensemen John Carlson and Karl Alzner will get the chance to prove themselves worthy of full-time NHL play while Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth will be the goaltending tandem in D.C.
If it seems shocking that a team wouldn’t make drastic moves after a miserable playoff performance that followed a brilliant regular season, Capitals GM George McPhee inserts some of his own logic to the mix courtesy of Caps Insider’s Katie Carrera.
“We had a fabulous season last year and for about six and a half months we were a terrific team and in five days we lost it. We came to camp expecting to do good and we had a real good season with really no adversity.
“We start the playoffs three games to one and in five days it fell apart. We didn’t play well enough in game five (against Montreal); we couldn’t have played better than we did in game six. That was probably the best game we played all season. We were pretty good in game seven but the goalie was great, our powerplay didn’t work and we scored one goal a game the last three games and our strength last year was scoring.
“It didn’t work out but I cant allow five days to get in the way of what we think is a terrific team. So we’d like to keep them together and see how they do this year.”
What McPhee says makes a world of sense. The Caps were a great team last year that got ushered out by a team with a system and a game plan that they stuck to to the letter. In the NHL playoffs, these things happen sometimes and it usually leads to that losing team getting a chip on their shoulder the following season to correct those wrongs.
The catch with the Caps is that they’ll be doing that with a handful of guys that aren’t just new to the Caps but are new to the NHL as well. It’s somewhat like playing with fire for both McPhee and head coach Bruce Boudreau, but with the amount of talent the Caps have it’s a risk worth taking.
After all, guys like Alzner, Carlson and Neuvirth have done their part in winning the Calder Cup in the AHL so they’ve done that much. Adapting the skills learned there and trying to make the Caps a Stanley Cup winner might prove to be McPhee and Boudreau’s most daring challenge to date.