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Previewing the East: Washington

The biggest spending at the free-agency party, the Capitals shored up defensive need

Tuesday, 08.19.2014 / 12:00 AM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor |
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Previewing the East: Washington
The Capitals spent more money than any other NHL team in free agency this summer \u2013 an estimated $70 million \u2013 but goalie Braden Holtby could be the difference in securing a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs or failing to make it to the postseason for a second straight year.
DETROIT – Ready for some hockey?

Sure you are.

The Red Wings don’t open training camp until Sept. 19 in Traverse City, but over the next eight weeks's Bill Roose will preview the 15 teams in the Eastern Conference, including the Red Wings’ Atlantic Division rivals in Boston, Tampa Bay, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Florida and Buffalo. This week it's the Washington Capitals:

Coach: Barry Trotz

Last Year: 38-30-14, 90 points (ninth in Eastern Conference)
Detroit vs. Capitals: 1-0-2
5-on-5 Goals: 139 (12th in Eastern Conference)
Power Play Efficiency: 68-for-291, 23.4 percent (second in Eastern Conference)

2013-14 Stats Vs. Red Wings
Player POS AGE rank GM G A PT. GM G A PT.
Alex Ovechkin RW 28 8 78 51 28 79 3 2 2 4
Nicklas Backstrom C 26 11 82 18 61 79 3 0 4 4
Joel Ward RW 33 93 82 24 25 49 3 3 1 4
Marcus Johansson C 23 121 80 8 36 44 3 0 2 2
Troy Brouwer RW 29 123 82 25 18 43 3 1 0 1
2013-14 Stats
Goalie AGE Rank GM W L OTL GAA SV%
Braden Holtby 24 20 48 23 15 4 2.85 .914
vs. Red Wings
1 1 0 0 2.80 .919

2014-15 OUTLOOK

Regular-Season Games vs. Red Wings: Oct. 29 (at WAS); Jan. 10 (at WAS); Apr. 5 (at DET).

ARRIVALS:  Forwards Chris Conner, Tim Kennedy, Kris Newbury; defensemen Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Mike Moore, Jon Landry; and goalie Justin Peters.

DEPARTURES:  Forwards Mikhail Grabovski, Dustin Penner and Joel Rechlicz; defenseman Tyson Strachan; and goalie David Leggio.

PLAYER TO WATCH: By not spending even more money in free agency to acquire a veteran backup like Martin Brodeur or Tomas Vokoun, the Capitals basically have told Braden Holtby that he is their man this season. Instead, the Caps went out and signed Justin Peters (two years, $1.9 million) to be more of a traditional backup that will allow Holtby to start about 80 percent of the games. The signing is a good indicator for Holtby who doesn’t have to worry about an older, more experienced backup taking his No. 1 job during the season. Still, it’s a big year for Holtby, who enters the final year of a two-year contract after posting a 23-15-4 record with a 2.85 goals-against average and a career-low .915 save percentage.

SEASON SCOPE: The Capitals spent more money than any other NHL team in free agency this summer – an estimated $70 million – while getting tougher on the blue line with the acquisitions of two guys, Matt Niskanen (seven years, $40.25 million) and Brooks Orpik (five years, $27.5 million), who were defensive stalwarts during their time in Pittsburgh. By adding the pair, the Capitals believe they’ve addressed a major concern, bringing in veteran leadership to a unit that used an NHL-high 14 different defensemen last season.

Niskanen led all NHL defensemen with a plus-33 rating last season, and, under new coach Barry Trotz, he’ll be counted on to run the Caps’ power play with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, who finished 1-2 in the league in power-play points with 44 and 39, respectively.

Atlantic Division Metropolitan Division
Buffalo (July 24) Carolina (Aug. 7)
Boston (sep. 11) Columbus (Aug. 21)
Florida (July 29) New Jersey (Aug. 14)
Montreal (Sep. 2) NY Islanders (July 31)
Ottawa (Aug. 12) NY Rangers (Aug. 28)
Tampa Bay (Sep. 4) Philadelphia (Aug. 26)
Toronto (Aug. 5) Pittsburgh (sep. 9)
Washington (Aug. 19)


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