5 Washington Capitals Players That Must Step Up During 2013-14 Season
5 Washington Capitals Players Who Must Step Up During 2013-14 Season
With the new NHL realignment of conferences, it created some interesting matchups and disbanded the former Southeastern Division in the process. This was particularly bad for the Washington Capitals, who made a habit of racking up the wins in their own division, winning five of the last six division crowns.
Being a part the new ‘Metropolitan’ Division, Washington will be the new team on the block, as they essentially join the former Atlantic division plus the Columbus Blue Jackets and former division rival the Carolina Hurricanes.
Since the lockout, there have been five instances where members of the Metropolitan Division have played in the Stanley Cup Final, and in two instances they won. So it won’t be the slam dunk that the Southeast Division had become for the Capitals, as now they will have to be willing to work harder and deal with the grind it out style that the division will likely play on them on a nightly basis.
It’s no question the Capitals sometimes struggle with handling physical play, as well as dishing out their own. And with teams like the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and the Blue Jackets, consistent regulars atop the NHL fighting charts, the Capitals will have to get more physical to make it out of the division.
The Capitals are once again led by Alexander Ovechkin, who after winning his third MVP joined some pretty exclusive company. Ovechkin became one of eight players in the history of the NHL to win the MVP at least three times, joining Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, and Bobby Orr, among others.
Despite being streaky at times he is still one of the game’s elite goal scorers and is second to none personality wise. He is joined by Braden Holtby, whose breakout season last year got him an invite to the Canadian Olympic Orientation Camp and recognition as one of the game’s rising young goalies.
Those two won’t alone guarantee the Capitals’ success in their division, so here are five players that need to step up in order for them to have a successful season.
5. Joel Ward
Joel Ward is in his third year of a four-year, $12 million contract, and in two years with the Caps he has scored 14 goals. In 39 (of 48) games last season, Ward scored eight goals which over a 82-game season would have put him one goal behind his career high. The Caps don’t need the 32-year old winger to top his career high (although it would be nice), they just need him to be the physical force that made him such a valuable secondary player with the Nashville Predators. As mentioned before the new Metropolitan will be one of the rougher divisions in the sport, and the Caps will need a player to step and dish it out as much as they will get it.
4. Brooks Laich
After only playing in nine games last year, the biggest need for Brooks Laich is to stay healthy, something that is already looking like a problem. Laich scored 20+ goals in three straight seasons, and needs to become that valuable secondary player that the Caps can rely on if Ovechkin has another one of his lengthy slumps.
3. Karl Alzner
The former first round pick out of Burnaby, British Columbia has the potential of being a top-4 shutdown defenseman, but with his team going to be playing against the likes of Claude Giroux, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Marian Gaborik on a consistent basis he is going to have to do it quickly. Karl Alzner doesn’t provide much scoring wise; he has never scored more than two goals in a season so he will need to round out his defensive game so the Caps can handle the star-studded division they are now in.
2. Mikail Grabovski
Mikhail Grabovski is the kind of offensive enigma that in his inconsistent play may fit perfectly with the Capitals. At times he is one of the game’s better offensive threats, but his inconsistent effort doomed him with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He wasn’t utilized the way he should have been either, as the Maple Leafs used him in a defensive role. In a system now that suits him better, Grabovski is in a position where he must step up, for his sake (he is on a one-year contract) and for the sake of the team who signed him. The next step for Grabovski if the Capitals does not work out would be the KHL.
1. Alexander Ovechkin
Why does the reigning league MVP need to step up? Anyone remember how the first quarter of the season went for Ovie? The first part of the season was a nightmare for Alexander The Great and his team. For the first 16 games of the season Alex scored 10 points (five goals, five assists) and only two multi-point games, neither of which produced more than one goal. He had a streak where he scored goals in three straight games but followed that up with a three game pointless streak. That led to a 5-10-1 record for the Capitals. The Caps and Ovechkin cannot afford to slip at any point in the season in such a difficult division.