Those Guys Are Better: Washington Capitals
Just as quickly as I could write about how great the Tampa Bay Lightning are, they find themselves down 2-0 to the Washington Capitals.
The Lightning are still a great team and appear to be set up well for the next few years. Also, they aren't 100% out of this series but damn, the Caps look great.
Let's look at what makes them great while touching on a few comparisons and differences as it relates to the Chicago Blackhawks. Right now, their lineup is constructed as such:
Key Injury: Nick Backstrom
Considering they have that key injury of Backstrom and are still finding ways to win screams out at me as them having really solid depth, primarily down the middle.
Lars Eller has been fairly "average joe" if you look at his stats since he entered the NHL. He's never scored 20 goals in a season (had a career-best 18 this year) but really comes alive in the playoffs. He had 13 points in 17 games in 2014 with the Canadiens when they went on their run and is sitting with 11 points in 14 games this post-season.
Overall, the Caps have solid depth as well as a nice mix of 2 different things – Speed/Grit and Young/Old.
Now, I know you all don't want me to go any further before I mention Michal Kempny. Yes, I read the article and I'm happy the Kempny for a 2018 3rd round pick worked out for Washington. Hopefully, the Hawks get a great player with that selection as well – but we won't know how this trade worked out for years.
I will say that I heard Michal Kempny was not going to sign here in the off-season; to be honest, I was surprised he re-upped for the last summer with Chicago.
Since his arrival, he wasn't given the longest leash from Quenneville. He always appeared to have the skill set, the guy just needed to play. I really liked his mobility and the fact he was not afraid to show a physical side.
So, let's hope he goes on to win a Cup in Washington and we can just be happy for the guy. When a player is moved from one team to another, you can bet that the GM, Coaches and scouts on both sides follow along with how the player they sent packing performs. Stan Bowman is no different and could very well even bring this up with Quenneville this summer. Ultimately, it was Stan who pulled the trigger on the deal, but Quenneville was the one not playing Kempny and who also was pushing for the 8-man defensive rotation (which I believe hurt all the defencemen this year… I'll get into that in another blog).
Just remember, the Hawks have won their fair share of trades with individuals as well, so it works both ways.
I think the biggest adjustment to the Capitals that I've noticed is the "way" they are playing. Barry Trotz has been behind the bench in Washington since 2014 and has a history of putting together a strong system that is successful in the regular season but falls short in the playoffs. This year, it seems like he's got the right mix players to play his system.
They aren't necessarily playing a trap, but they are really clogging up the neutral zone and putting a ton of defensive pressure on Tampa Bay making it really hard for them to hit that next gear.
Last note on the Caps is that it's very cool to see how the eventual torch-passing from Ovechkin to Kuznetsov is going to keep this team rolling for a while. The next wave of players for Washington also includes Burakovsky, Vrana, Wilson, Bowey, Samsonov. The Hawks will need the same turnover of talent with the core starting to or already entering the back-half of their careers.
Finally, congrats to those IceHogs who are now moving on to the conference finals vs. Texas. Game #1 goes on Friday night!
These guys can't lose. It's been amazing to watch and I looking forward to seeing how far they can take this thing. I'll have more of a breakdown as the week goes on.
See ya out there!