the most important position in the game is the most stable position for the Capitals. Olie Kolzig is a proven goaltender. At 36 he can still carry this team and play a good 50+ games. He came into camp in much better shape this year and the increased quickness is noticable. He still needs to try and limit the number of rebounds he gives up, especially with such a green core of defensemen. Behind him, Brent Johnson can certainly steal some games and showed last year he can play. In his 20 or so starts, he could conceivably win 10 games.Defense:
Youth is the theme for this year. Morrisonn, Eminger, Pothier, Green. What do they all have in common? They're under the age of 30. Only Jamie Heward and Brian Muir have seniority in this group. The problem is that before the lockout, Heward and Muir weren't in the NHL. This team gave up an average of 35 shots last year (28th in the league). Granted, Green and Pothier are an improvement over Biron and Majesky, but this group still has trouble breaking out, getting bodies out from in front of Olie and clearing rebounds. That shot average might go down to 33 a game; but still, over 30 is a LOT.Offense:
It starts and ends with Ovechkin. The 52 goal, 106 point man has to have a good season in order for the Caps to succeed. He does have help with Semin and Zednik back in DC and with Pettinger, Zubrus, Clark and Sutherby along with him. The problem: only Zubrus and Zednik have eclipsed 40 points in a season in their careers. At the end of the day, Ovechkin will (barring injury) be good for 100 points, but if that Caps offense is going to run, someone else needs to get close to the 55-60 point area. That is definitely possible for either Zubrus or Clark, who are (currently) playing along with the Russian Dynamo, and for Alexander Semin, who has come out of the gates strong.The Power Play:
Oh. My. God. The problems on the powerplay are too endless to list...but I will anyway. The Caps need to move the puck quickly and with purpose. The point men need to pull the trigger when they have the open shot and have the forwards redirect the puck or bang in the rebounds. Beyond that, they need to figure out how to get the puck in the zone without dumping it (which they inevitably lose and allow the other team to fling it up the boards) and holding the puck in the zone at the points. They need to give up less shorties and with two strong PP units, they should do better than last year.The Penalty Kill:
As bad as the power play is, the PK is worse. The Caps tend to swarm to the puck and get caught behind the net, usually leaving one or two guys camped out around Olie. They need to focus on being aggressive, but holding the box. They can not have their forwards revolving down low because the defensemen are getting caught trying to retrieve the puck at the point. Beyond that, they must clear the screens out from in front of Olie and just clear it as quickly as possible. With a PK ranked near the bottom of the league last year, they can only go up...hopefully.Dark Horses:
Alexander Semin might be the most unexpected player to have a huge sophomore year. On a line with Zednik his speed and new-found matured skills could produce 30 goals and 60 points. The other thing that makes him an X-factor is the fact that most teams will be geared towards AO and allow him and Zed to find the twine a little more. He spent two years playing in Russia and that only gave him more time for his skills and body to mature.
The other Dark Horse is a fourth line veteran: Donald Brashear. For an enforcer being paid to protect the most valuable player on the Caps, "Brash" could be a big producer. He'll usually be playing with some younger players who are hungry to prove themselves. Plus, in a new city, with a new, big contract, Brashear will want to play well to get a big extension. Plus, he's shown some offensive poise in the first two games.
Last but not least, Shaone Morrisonn is the most underrated young defenseman in the league. While he doesn't have a lot of flash or big-hit ability, he can make the plays in his own zone when he has to. He knows what to do with the puck and he has the veteran savvy to make those big plays on his own. He might not put up huge defensive numbers this year, but he will make leaps and bounds toward being the Caps' number one defenseman.Overrated:
Unfortunately, the two most overrated players are defensemen. Steve Eminger was the 12th pick in 2002. Four years later, he still has not adapted to the speed of the NHL. He can hit, and he has some speed, but he still does not have poise. He hasn't learned to knock the guys in the crease down and has given up plenty of rebound and deflection goals on his watch. His decision-making ability with the puck needs to improve if he wants to be a top notch defenseman, which he has the potential to be.
Second, the highest-paid defenseman, Brian Pothier. George McPhee brought in Pothier as a stablizing top defenseman. Heck, he paid him $2.5 million per year to do so. The only problem is that Pothier is not the #1 defenseman the Caps have slotted him to be. In Ottawa, Pothier was usually paired with a veteran as a second pair and had the opportunity to learn from Redden and Chara. He is only 29 and is not a top defenseman in the NHL. Hopefully, that four-year contract will give him time to mature into the top two defenseman he could be, but you can't expect him to give Chara or Redden-like numbers.
Finally, Danius Zubrus has STILL not become the star forward the Flyers envisioned when they drafted him in the first round. Now approaching his 30s, Caps fans are still hoping that Zuby will have the breakout year. It may never come. Zubrus is a great power forward, but on a line with a 100 point forward he only scored 42 points. I'm sorry, but Dainus Zubrus will never be a consistent 80 point forward.My Outlook:
The Caps will be better this year...but not by much. Most people are picking the Caps to finish in 14th in the East, ahead of only the Islanders. I see the Caps finishing 12th, ahead of the Isles, Panthers, and Penguins. Final totals for this year are 80 points.
Ovechkin leads all forwards with 54 goals and 110 points. Shaone Morrisonn is the top plus/minus getter with +11. Olie wins 29 games and has a GAA of 3.10. In the end, the Caps don't make the playoffs.