2015-16 was a banner season for the Washington Capitals-right up until the playoffs. The Capitals finished the regular season with easily (56-18-8, 120 Pts) the league's best record to add a President's Trophy to the collection, Barry Trotz won the Jack Adams Award as best coach and Braden Holtby took home the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goalie.
All that shiny hardware meant little come the postseason. In the second round, the Capitals were knocked off in six games by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Penguins.
Despite that unceremonious playoff exit, you can't dismiss how dominant this team was during the regular season. The Capitals finished a whopping 16 points clear of any team in the Eastern Conference while ranking second in both scoring (3.02 GPG) and defense (2.33 GA). Additionally, Washington boasted the second-best penalty kill (85.2%) and fifth-best power play (21.9%). This team simply did it all.
There's been little turnover to the roster, which would seem a positive given those lofty numbers. The only notable addition was a trade for Lars Eller. The 27-year-old center is slotted to play on the third line after tallying 13 goals and 13 assists in 79 games with the Canadiens a season ago.
Washington Capitals 2016-17 Outlook
The Capitals are once again loaded. Future Hall of Famer Alex Ovechkin is coming off yet another 50-goal season, which is the third-straight season and seventh time in his career he's reached that lofty standard. But it's much more than Ovie. Six different Capitals scored at least 20 goals last season, and all but one are back (Jason Chimera). First-line center Evgeny Kuznetsov had a breakout campaign last season at the age of 24, finishing with a team-high 77 points (20 G, 57 A). Veteran right-winger T.J. Oshie also fit in nicely in his first season in D.C., tallying 26 goals and 25 assists. This line of Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Oshie is as good as any in the NHL.
Defensively, things don't fall off much for the Capitals. Braden Holtby tied Martin Brodeur's record for wins in a season with 48 while also ranking sixth in goals allowed to earn his first Vezina Trophy. In front of Holtby is an efficient, blue-collar group of defensemen. There isn't much star power on Washington's blue line, but first-line defenders Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen have developed into a reliable big-minute pairing.
Washington Capitals 2016-17 Schedule
The Capitals open on the road against the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins on Oct. 13. This one should certainly have some added buzz given last year's playoff series between the two teams. The back-end of the schedule for the Caps could provide some trouble as Washington plays six of its final eight games on the road.
Washington Capitals 2016-17 Futures Odds
The Capitals are +1000 to win the Stanley Cup, putting them with the Penguins as the co-second choice in the market behind the Blackhawks (+750). Washington is +195 to win the Metropolitan Division and the +550 second-choice to win the Eastern Conference. The Capital's "over/under" for total points has been installed at 107.5, which is the highest in the league.
2016-17 Washington Capitals Predictions
The Capitals were clearly the best team in hockey during the regular season. Unfortunately, the postseason troubles that have defined the Ovechkin era in D.C. returned. This team has seemed poised to hoist its first Stanley Cup for a number of seasons now. Will it ever break through? Head coach Barry Trotz has already said a repeat of last year's dominant regular season would seem unlikely. As he noted, everything seemed to break the Capitals way last year. But that really shouldn't matter as at this point it's all about postseason success with this group. Perhaps a little adversity would serve them well come the postseason.
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