By: Clayton Dobry
This year is the year that all Capitals fans have been waiting for because this is the year that the Washington Capitals will win the Stanley Cup. The Capitals have established a reputation as a team that can’t get it done in the playoffs. The team entered the National Hockey League in 1974 and have yet to win the Stanley Cup. In 40 seasons the Capitals have only made it to the playoffs 25 times, losing in the first round 14 times, losing in the second 9 times, losing in the third one time, and losing in the finals once. With a record like this it’s not too surprising why hockey isn’t very popular in the nation’s capital. This season however the Capitals have been kicking ass and taking names, not only through winning the Presidents Trophy but also by setting a new franchise record for most wins in a single season with 55. The Capitals have been playing so well that one can’t help themselves ask the question, are they the best Caps yet will actually win the Stanley cup?
One of Washington’s best performances occurred during the 1997-98 season. The success of the ’97-98 squad was led by a sensational performance from net-minder Olaf Kolzig who put up a .920 save percentage and 2.20 GAA during the regular season and an even more impressive .941 save percentage and 1.95 GAA in the playoffs. Their offense was led by Peter Bondra, Adam Oates and Joe Juneau, while on defense there was Calle Johansson and Phil Housley. While the team performed well in the regular season, putting up 92 points with a record of 40-30-12, they excelled within the playoffs. In the first set of games against the Boston Bruins three games ended up in the Capitals favor after going into overtime. They closed out with a 4-2 win in the series and washed away the Ottawa Senators in the semi-finals 4-1. In the Stanley Cup Final however they couldn’t keep their composure, getting knocked out by the Detroit Red Wings four games to none.
In 2009-10 the Capitals had their best full season winning percentage until recently, with a mark of .738 (54-15-13) far surpassing that of the ’97-98 squad. The team was a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference with two Caps (Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom) going over the 100 point mark. In addition, Capitals goalies Jose Theodore, Semyon Varlamov, and Michal Neuvirth all put up impressive save percentages all topping over ninety percent as well as impressive GAA’s. While the Capitals played a phenomenal regular season, even snagging the President’s Trophy for the first time in franchise history, the team couldn’t keep composed during the playoffs. During the first round in the playoffs against the Montreal Canadians the Caps let a 3-1 lead slip away in one of the biggest playoff upsets ever.
In the 42nd season as an NHL franchise the Washington Capitals are having their best season ever. Through 79 games Washington has set a new franchise record for most wins in a single season with a record of 55-17-7. The team has already won the Presidents Trophy and leads the eastern conference by 15 points with 117 points. In his second season with the Capitals, head coach Barry Trotz has his players producing highlight reel material game in and game out. Goaltender Braden Holtby is having a sensational season with a record of 47-9-8, a .922 save percentage, and a 2.20 GAA. Holtby’s been consistently displaying this athleticism this season stretching and diving all across the ice to keep his team ahead. Backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer has also been having an impressive season; while he’s seen significantly less ice playing only 17 games, with a record of 8-8-1, he’s still got an impressive .918 save percentage. Surprisingly the Capitals aren’t led in points by Alex Ovechkin, but rather by Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov has 75 points and currently holds a seven point lead against his teammate Ovechkin. The Capitals have a well balanced offense with eight players with double digits in the goal scoring category. While the team may have a more balanced offense Ovechkin continues to dominate the ice and leads the NHL in goals with 50.
The current roster has all of the best elements of the ’97-98 and ’09-10 squads. The current roster has not one but two goalies who have put up impressive numbers in the regular season, surpassing those of both the ’97-98 and ’09-10 squads. While no one has yet to break the 100 point mark on the ’15-16 roster, the selfless play has really been displayed through the overall stats of players and the team. The team plays a balanced game that has produced results. There is no question that this has been the best regular season Capitals roster the franchise has ever seen.
The reputation of Washington as a team that crumbles under the pressure of the post season has yet to be disproven, but the ’15-16 season has produced the best Capitals team in franchise history. There has never been a better chance for Washington to win the Stanley Cup than right now. This season’s roster represents the best of the Washington Capitals as a franchise, from an iron clad defense to black ops snipers on offense. The team has already broken the franchise record for most wins in a season and is on track to beat the franchise record for points in a season. This may be the best Capitals team in franchise history who has performed phenomenally during the regular season, if there is any Capitals team to win the Stanley cup for the first time in franchise history it’s this one.