6. Washington Capitals (2022-23, 35-37-10, 80 points, 6th in the Metro):
The Capitals might have an aging forward group but don’t count them out yet. At 38 years old, Alex Ovechkin is still a goal-scoring machine, netting 42 goals last season. That guy is like fine wine; he keeps improving with age.
They did have some injury woes, with Tom Wilson and Nicklas Backstrom missing a chunk of the previous season. Backstrom even had hip surgery, raising questions about his future performance. Yet Wilson, in just 33 games, managed 13 goals and 22 points. Imagine what he can do over a full season, especially since he’s now got his 7X$6.5 million AAV extension.
The Caps have Dylan Strome, who put up 65 points in 81 games and adds depth at center.
They’re counting on Evgeny Kuznetsov to bounce back and T.J. Oshie to stay injury-free. Oh, and Max Pacioretty is returning from a torn Achilles.
Now, in the goalie department, Washington made some changes. Out with Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek and in with Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren. Kuemper had a solid .908 save percentage and stopped 8.8 goals above expected. Lindgren struggled with his .899 SV%.
The Capitals defense, once a strength, could use some tinkering. It’ll be interesting to see what new coach Spencer Carbery does with that.
John Carlson is still the anchor, but he needs to stay healthy. The right side of their blue line is solid with Nick Jensen and Trevor van Riemsdyk. It’s the left side that’s a bit concerning. Rasmus Sandin, their acquisition, has potential but is unproven at handling top-four minutes.
Martin Fehervary is defensively sound but not much of an offensive threat. Injuries have plagued Joel Edmundson, who will be out for 4-6 weeks with a fractured hand.
Overall, the Caps have decent goaltending, an offense that could light up the scoreboard, and a solid right side on defense. Yet finishing higher than fifth or sixth place might be a stretch.
The main focus in Washington is on Alex Ovechkin chasing Wayne Gretzky’s goal record. The rest of the team is aging, but with a resurgence from Nicklas Backstrom and a healthy John Carlson, they aim to support Ovechkin in his quest for greatness.