The Washington Capitals finished the 2021-22 season with the fourth-best power-play percentage in the league. An impressive 29.17 percent had them behind only the Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers, and St. Louis Blues. Coming into the 2022-23 season with the greatest goal scorer of all time made it seem like the team was going to rely on their special teams play as they did in years prior, but that hasn’t been the case. A massive step back has the Capitals sitting at 17th in the NHL for power-play percentage at 21.43 percent, so the team has had to find success at even-strength – which is precisely what they’ve been able to do.
Sonny Milano Emerges, Proves to Be Valuable
The Capitals signed Sonny Milano to a one-year, $750,000 contract after training camp had concluded. The Calgary Flames released Milano after he had signed a professional tryout contract (PTO) with the club.
After a short stint in the American Hockey League (AHL), Milano made his presence felt with the Capitals almost immediately after being called up on an emergency basis. It took him just four games to get his first goal and ever since, he has been a mainstay in the Capitals’ top six. Through 32 games this season, he has scored seven goals and added 12 assists for 19 points, good enough for 10th on the team in scoring.
Aside from scoring, Milano has been sound defensively while adding a physical side to his game. Bringing him in on a one-year deal for as cheap as they did, makes it look like a steal for the Capitals. After every other team in the NHL shockingly passed on signing him, he is showing why he is a valuable piece to any franchise. He has been a huge reason for the team’s success at even strength because he currently doesn’t play on either power-play unit, so most of his points have come at 5-on-5.
Nic Dowd Embraces His Role
At 6-foot-1, 193 pounds, Nic Dowd isn’t your typical goal-scoring forward. Instead, he has found comfort as a go-to penalty killer and depth scorer. Through 43 games this season, he has scored 10 goals and added nine assists for 19 points, good enough for ninth on the team in scoring.
With depth scoring being an issue for many teams, Dowd has given the Capitals a reason to breathe with his play. As one of the team’s best defensive forwards, he has embraced his role as a guy who doesn’t see the ice during a power play but can put the puck in the net at even strength. He will never be expected to put up insane numbers like Ovechkin or Nicklas Backstrom, but he remains an important piece to the puzzle as the team pushes toward their second Stanley Cup.
Every team has its weak points, but the Capitals have taken themselves from being power play “merchants” to a team that can provide scoring in any scenario. The weaknesses they’ve had in the past seem non-existent this season, and with Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson returning to the lineup full-time, the team is looking even scarier offensively.
Trustworthy Goaltending Tandem
Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren have been extremely strong this season for the Capitals. After backstopping the Colorado Avalanche to a Stanley Cup last season, Kuemper signed a long-term deal with the Capitals and has had a solid showing in his first year with the team. Through 28 games, Kuemper holds a 12-11-4 record with a .918 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.54 goals-against average (GAA). The Capitals have looked strong in front of him and seemingly have a lot of trust in him when he’s in the net.
Lindgren has an 11-5-2 record with a .912 SV% and a 2.60 GAA. While plenty of teams worry about injuries to their starting goaltender, the Capitals don’t need to worry. Both goaltenders, who signed new deals in the offseason, have been lights out. Being able to put the puck in the net is one thing, but keeping it out of your own net is just as important, and the Capitals brand new tandem looks stronger than it ever has.
This Capitals team has all the right pieces to make another deep playoff run. Their depth players have shined through and are playing the roles they need to, their goaltending tandem remains strong heading into the last half of the season, and the goal scorers that they rely on on a nightly basis continue to provide offense when called upon. The consistency of all of these components should help this team reach its goal, the second Stanley Cup in franchise history.
I have been a writer for a little over a year now, and currently still play Junior Hockey in Western Canada. I’m a huge fan of the Capitals and Oilers, and I run my own hockey news page on Instagram titled “TheMugNHL”
Writing has become a hobby, as I plan to pursue business in university while still trying to play hockey as I go.