Ovechkin and company look to take on the Eastern Conference with more experience and a chip on their shoulder. Is this their year?
The Caps seem ready to go after closing out their preseason with a victory over the Rangers and a record of 4-2 during the six-game span. They will open the season tonight against the Boston Bruins. Both teams are projected to finish atop the standings in the Eastern Conference.
Here’s a list of predictions that have the B’s ahead of the Caps–[The Hockey News]
NHL.com breaks it down team-by-team as well but speaks of the Caps saying, “visions of the cup are nearly in their sites.”
The Philadelphia Flyers made a big move in the off-season bringing in monstrous D-man Chris Pronger. His physical play will add to the already brutal tactics of the Flyers, but will cost them a lot more penalty kill situations.
The Lightning and Islanders both brought in top prospects Victor Hedman and John Tavares respectively. Hedman will bring some defensive power to the Bolts but it probably won’t be enough to stop the offensive dominance in the East from teams like Pittsburgh and Washington. Tavares will add more speed to the young roster in New York, but let’s face it…you can’t put it all on the shoulders of a rookie. Ovechkin couldn’t even do that his rookie year with the Caps, but Tavares should break into the league with some good offense.
The Rangers added star forward Marion Gaborik, but will have to rely on his health to lead their gritty offense in front of all-star netminder Henrik Lundqvist.
The Penguins pretty much have the same line-up as last year. I guess if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. they will look to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.
That brings us to the Caps. WeloveDC.com says that “the Redskins have imploded, the United tanked and the Nats…well, they’re the Nats. Anyway, are you ready for some hockey?” Click hereto see the interview with ESPN analyst John Buccigross.
Washington lost some old legs in Kozlov and Fedorov but have made some additions to their roster. They’ve added work-horse forward Mike Knuble who will bring the same style of play as a Brooks Laich, but put more pucks in the net. They also picked up Brendan Morrison who only played 19 games last year due to an injury, but will rely on him to stay healthy and be their number two center.
In between the pipes, Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov will be battling for the number one spot. Although Coach Bruce Boudreau has claimed Theo as the number one, Varlamov made a good case during the playoffs last year that he should be starting most games. Recently acquired goalie coach, Arturs Irbe, is a native of Russia and is able to communicate with Varly without any problems, which troubled the rookie goaltender last season.
The Caps also pulled up defensive coach Bob Woods from Hershey and will most likely give them the winning attitude the Calder Cup Champion Hershey bears have gained over the five years. After a disappointing effort in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals verse the Penguins last year, you can bet the barn defense will be a huge focus for the team this year.
Speaking of focus…it seems the camera is always focused on this one player…Alex Ovechkin. His innate scoring abilities, lightnight speed, thunderous shot, and vicious hits are the main reason this is the case. Although he has had back-to-back seasons with numerous individual records he is still labeled as a player who has not won the Stanley Cup.
Coach Bruce Boudreau thinks Alex can still get better, and that means doing good things at the other end of the ice–[Reuters]. That seems to be the big exclamation point of the 2009-10 season for the Caps…BETTER DEFENSE!
Check out the Capitals’ preview from Puck Daddy–[Yahoo!]