The NHL season feels like it just started, yet our Washington Capitals have already completed 19 out of their 82 games, so let’s take a look at how they are faring in the ever-competitive Metropolitan Division.
The Capitals were bottom-dwellers in the division at the start of the year, which wasn’t helped by some unexpectedly hot starts by the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers. The Capitals recently came off of a four game losing streak, the longest so far this season. The slow start has not been helped by a number of injuries plaguing many of their best players. Alex Ovechkin’s right-hand man Nicklas Backstrom and Carl Hagelin are on long term injured reserve, while Tom Wilson and John Carlson are also on the injured reserve. Those are just the key pieces out; they also have four depth players out with injuries.
D.C. hockey fans rejoiced in 2018 when the Washington Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights to win the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup, but things have been rather stagnant for the Caps since then. The team has failed to win another playoff series since their cup victory, falling in the first round of the playoffs every year since. The Capitals’ core players have done nothing but age since, creating the second oldest average roster age this season.
There may be experience with age, but the best teams in the league are typically those with youth and speed. This is especially important in the Metropolitan Division, which has often been the most competitive of the four NHL divisions. The Caps have their work cut out for them, but they’re a winning franchise. They’ve made the playoffs each of the last eight seasons and in over half of every season they’ve ever played.
Even if the Caps perform poorly, they still have something to be excited about. Ovechkin is marching through the NHL record books, most recently with his 787th goal as a member of the Capitals to surpass “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe for most goals with one franchise. He can feasibly get to 800 this season and is on pace to once again move past Howe in the record books. Howe currently sits at second all-time in goals scored at 801 with Ovechkin’s 789 breathing down his back from third place. Wayne Gretzky’s elusive record of 894 goals scored will remain safe this year, as Ovechkin would have to net an impossible total of 114 goals this season to pass him. Ovechkin could absolutely take the record in a few years time, even though he’s already 37.
In his season last year, Ovechkin netted 50 goals at age 36, an undoable feat for anyone besides him. Skeptics have said that Father Time will come for him soon, but barring a major injury, Gretzky’s mark of 894 goals is feasible for Ovechkin.
The Capitals currently sit at sixth in the Metropolitan Division out of the eight teams and do not have an easy schedule the rest of November, which includes a match against the reigning cup champion Colorado Avalanche. However, this Capitals team is resilient, and they’ll adapt and adjust, as they always do.