2014-2015 Washington Capitals Versus the Metropolitan Division

How Well Will the Washington Capitals Compete Against the Metropolitan Division in 2014-2015?

For years, the Washington Capitals were the dominant force in the old Southeast Division.  Last season, they became a member of the newly formed Metropolitan Division.

With a new Division and tougher competition, the Capitals did not perform as well in 2013-2014 like in seasons before.  They were not a playoff team and finished fifth in the Metropolitan Division.  They only missed the NHL Playoffs by three points, but had a losing record within their division.

A new season is right around the corner for the Washington Capitals.  The Capitals improved on paper during this busy summer.  Was it enough to get them back into the postseason?  Can the Capitals do better than their 12-15-3 record they posted last season against the Metropolitan Division?

(Tom Turk/THW)
(Tom Turk/THW)

Metropolitan Division Standings Prediction:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins – Y* Division Winner
2. Columbus Blue Jackets – X
3. Washington Capitals – X
4. New York Rangers – X
5. Philadelphia Flyers
6. New Jersey Devils
7. Carolina Hurricanes
8. New York Islanders

The Reason Behind the Rankings

Pittsburgh: The Penguins were the top team in the Metropolitan Division in 2013-2014.  They were 13 points ahead of the second place New York Rangers.  I expect the Penguins to be right back at the top of the Metropolitan Division even with all the changes they have made during the summer.  The Penguins have plenty of firepower around Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.  While they lost a couple of guys on the blueline, this team can still compete with the best.  Marc-Andre Fleury should have a bounceback season considering he will be in the final year of his contract.

The Capitals were swept by the Penguins in 2013-2014 and lost all four games against them.  I doubt a sweep will happen again during the upcoming season.  I expect the Penguins to regress by a few points, and I expect the Capitals to split the four game season series with the Penguins in 2014-2015.

WSH/PITT Season Series Prediction: 2-2

Columbus: The Blue Jackets are a team that is on the rise.  With young studs Ryan Johansen, Boone Jenner, Ryan Murray, and Sergei Bobrovsky leading the way, this team is going to contend for a little while.  They made the playoffs for the second time in franchise history in 2013-2014 and had a tight playoff series with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs.

The Capitals split the series 2-2 with the Blue Jackets in 2013-2014.  They will play the Blue Jackets five times this upcoming season.  I expect the Capitals to win the series against the Blue Jackets, with three of the five games decided by one goal.  The Jackets are my darkhorse team this year and I believe they finish five to seven points behind the Penguins for second spot in the Metropolitan Division.

WSH/CBJ Season Series Prediction: 3-2 (Capitals)

Washington: The Capitals will finish third in the Metropolitan Division and will leap frog over the Rangers and Flyers.  I expect Braden Holtby will have more confidence this season considering he knows he has no competition behind him and he is in a contract year.  Alex Ovechkin should also remain in the 50+ club and should improve in his defensive play too under Barry Trotz.

Adam Oates caused a lot of problems in the dressing room.  He could never seem to find the right line combinations and he had a tendency to throw players under the bus.  Barry Trotz is an experienced head coach who brings an identity and a blueprint with him.  It will be interesting to see what this new identity will look like, but I have a feeling the Capitals will be a much more stiffer defensive team.

The revamped defensive core will help the Capitals keep more pucks out of their own net and it will help put pucks in the opposing team’s net.  The Capitals should improve in team puck possession and should have some breakout players this year with guys like Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson.

New York Rangers: The Rangers lost a lot of pieces in the offseason due to salary cap constraints.  Gone are Benoit Pouliot, Brian Boyle, Brad Richards, Anton Stralman who all played major roles in the Rangers run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2014.

The Capitals split the series with the Rangers 2-2 last season.  I expect the Rangers to slip a little bit since they were not able to replace a lot of key components from their cup run.  The Rangers still have one of the best goaltenders in the NHL with Henrik Lundqvist and a pretty good defensive core. I feel the Rangers will be battling with the Flyers for the last playoff position in the Eastern Conference at the end of the season.

WSH/NYR Season Series Prediction: 2-2

Philadelphia: The Flyers are relatively unchanged from last season.  Scott Hartnell was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for RJ Umberger (who is a former Flyer) during the offseason.

The Capitals did not play well against their Broad Street Bully rivals last season.  Most of the games were all wide open and went back and forth.  The Capitals went 2-2-1 and should have won at least two of those games that they ended up losing.  I am not a fan of the Flyers slow and old defensive core.  I also think the Flyers will miss Scott Hartnell more than they think.  RJ Umberger was a frequent healthy scratch during his time in Columbus last season.  I feel the Flyers could be fringe team that could be on the outside looking in once the postseason begins.

WSH/PHI Season Series Prediction: 2-1-1 (Capitals)

New Jersey: The Devils made a few changes in the offseason.  They brought in Martin Havlat and Mike Cammalleri for some offensive production.  Familiar faces Patrik Elias, Jaromir Jagr, Adam Henrique, and Travis Zajac are back in the mix for the Devils.  Cory Schneider is set to become the top guy in New Jersey and should get a majority of the starts in net for the Devils.

The Capitals struggled against the defensive minded Devils club.  They went 1-2-1 against the Devils last season with a majority of the games being close affairs.  The Capitals will play the Devils five times this season and they should all be tight games as usual.  Cory Schneider will be a tough test for the Capitals and any opposing team.  If the Capitals can get to Schneider early in games and can put some pucks in the net, the Devils should not be able to match the Capitals firepower.

WSH/NJ Season Series Prediction: 2-1-2

Carolina: The Hurricanes made no major changes in the offseason.  They have a new head coach in Bill Peters and new general manager in Ron Francis.  The Staal brothers and Jeff Skinner are back in the mix for the Hurricanes.  Cam Ward, who has battled numerous injuries, will be battling for his job in net against Anton Khudobin.

The Capitals had good and bad games against the Hurricanes in 2013-2014.  They went 2-2-1 in the season series against them.  They will play the Hurricanes four times this season.  Most games against the Hurricanes are decided by one or two goals and they can go either way.  I like the Capitals forwards and defensive core better than the Hurricanes group.

WSH/CAR Season Series Prediction: 3-0-1 (Capitals)

New York Islanders: The Islanders made some quick changes in the offseason.  They traded for goaltender Jaroslav Halak from the Capitals and they signed former Capitals centre Mikhail Grabovski to a large lengthy contract.  John Tavares should be back in the mix after his major knee injury he sustained back in the Olympics.  While Halak will give the Islanders stability in net, the Islanders do not have a very strong defensive core.  If they had a strong defensive core, they would be right in the mix battling for a playoff position.

The Capitals played well against the Islanders last season.  They went 3-1 in the season series against them.  I expect the Capitals to play well against the Islanders again this season as they will play them four times.

WSH/NYI Season Series Prediction: 3-1 (Capitals)

Final Tally of the Capitals Versus the Metropolitan Division: 16-9-5

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