Coming off a Stanley Cup title, the Washington Capitals had heightened expectations for 2018-19, especially with their rookies having gained experience and their stars having played to their highest potential. However, the season didn't end in the fashion that Washington expected.
Here's how each player did this season and their overall report cards as we look back at the Caps' campaign this past season.
Alex Ovechkin, LW
After putting up 49 goals in the regular season and 15 in the playoffs last year, many wondered if Ovechkin, 33, could keep up the pace coming off his first Stanley Cup title. However, he surpassed all expectations and silenced critics with a year that amounted to 51 goals, 89 points, his eighth Rocket Richard award and several milestones to boot. He also capped off the year with a strong, physical showing in the first round against Carolina, where he registered four goals and five points.
Nicklas Backstrom, C
Year after year, Backstrom has been outstanding for the Capitals and an elite NHL center, though he's gone under the radar. However, this year, with yet another consistent showing with at least 20 goals and 50 assists for the fourth straight year. He also came in clutch for Washington toward the end of the season, when he had 11 points in seven of eight games in a span from late February to mid-March. He also led the Caps in goal-scoring through the playoffs, where he registered five goals and ultimately finished with eight points against the Hurricanes.
T.J. Oshie, LW
Despite continued injury and concussion woes, Oshie still managed to have a strong season as the Caps' second-leading goal scorer (25) and another 50-point campaign. He continued to bring a lot of energy and was a huge asset on the first and second line. He had a decent postseason performance with a goal and assist through the first four games, but his season was cut short when a hit from Warren Foegele led to a broken clavicle.
Tom Wilson, RW
Controversy surrounded Wilson again to start the season after a preseason hit on Oskar Sundqvist led to yet another suspension, this one lasting 20 games. However, after his return, he got off to an outstanding start and never slowed down, putting up 11 goals and 19 points through his first 18 games and ultimately ending up with 22 goals and 44 points by the time the season was over. Overall, he proved his worth as a top-line forward and continues to show tremendous upside moving upward.
Jakub Vrana, LW
With higher expectations following his rookie campaign and coming into a contract year, Vrana was able to exceed his potential with extra work at practice and offensive prowess. He put up his first career 20-goal campaign, finished as Washington's third-leading goal scorer (24) and totalled 47 points to prove his worth to the organization.
Carl Hagelin, RW
Coming in at the trade deadline, Hagelin fit in right away, putting up a strong performance for Washington through his versatility, devotion on special teams and offensive chemistry. He finished the regular season strong and had three goals and 11 points in 20 games with the Caps, and also led all forwards in shorthanded ice time. Look for him to be a key piece of the lineup if he returns in 2019-20.
Brett Connolly, RW
In a contract year, Connolly came up huge for Washington by finally reaching his full potential. Displaying outstanding offensive prowess and chemistry alongside Lars Eller, the 27-year-old established career-highs in goals (22) and points (46) and was able to put past struggles behind him.
Devante Smith-Pelly, RW
Despite becoming a playoff hero last year with seven goals en route to the Capitals' Cup title, Smith-Pelly started the season off on the wrong foot and never recovered. He posted just four goals and eight points through 54 games, and when the trade deadline came around, he found himself reassigned to Hershey to improve. While he did return for the playoffs, he went scoreless through Washington's final three games.
Andre Burakovsky, RW
After a year of inconsistency and struggles with confidence, Burakovsky came into the season with a different approach. However, the ups and downs continued as he put up 12 goals and 25 points; however, he did perform well leading up to and following the trade deadline with seven points in eight games. He was able to show flashes of what he was capable of, but he still has ways to go, especially if he's brought back next season.
Travis Boyd, C/W
Despite an injury that sidelined him to start the year, Boyd was able to start the season off right and win a roster spot. Inconsistency in the latter part of the year, where he went 25 games without a goal from January to March, would place him in and out of the lineup. Still, with impressive point streaks here and there, Boyd finished the year with a strong rookie campaign with five goals and 20 points in 53 games.
Chandler Stephenson, C
Stephenson's speed and versatility helped him become a utility player and join the ranks of the NHL last season, but this year showed a decline in his performance. The 25-year-old registered just five goals and 11 points in 64 games, and his lack of offense and chemistry made it difficult for him to earn ice time. However, despite inconsistency and lengthy point droughts, he was given the opportunity to play all seven games against Carolina in the first round; while he beat out Travis Boyd and Dmitrij Jaskin for a spot in the lineup, he went scoreless and was a minus-2 in the first round.
Dmitrij Jaskin, RW
Claimed off waivers before the start of the season to potentially play full-time on the fourth line, Jaskin wasn't able to generate a lot of offense and in turn, didn't earn a lot of playing time this year. He finished with just two goals and eight points in 37 games and was a minus-5.
John Carlson, D
Coming off a hefty contract extension, Carlson was able to carry his game to the next level and prove himself as a blueliner worthy of the Norris Trophy with a 70-point campaign in the regular season.
Matt Niskanen, D
Again paired with Dmitry Orlov on the top-4, Niskanen was called upon to step up and maintain Washington's blueline depth and be a leader in the locker room. While he was solid, he didn't greatly impress this season, putting up a minus-3 rating after finishing with a plus-24 rating last year.
Dmitry Orlov, D
Though he played well and provided a lot of insurance for the Caps this year, it wasn't Orlov's best season as his performance would decline at times, especially in January, when he managed just three points and was on the ice for seven goals against. However, he redeemed himself at the end of the season and was able to contribute offensively in the playoffs with four assists in seven games.
Brooks Orpik, D
After Orpik was traded to Colorado and subsequently bought out, the Capitals brought him back on a one-year, $1 million deal, which ended up being a smart move for Washington. The 38-year-old not only continued to bring guidance and mentor players off the ice but he also had a solid showing on defense, registering seven points, 131 hits and a plus-8 rating.
Christian Djoos, D
Djoos had an outstanding rookie campaign last year as he showed his potential to develop into a top-4 defenseman, and in turn, the expectations were high this season. While he had a strong start to the year, the 24-year-old suffered a lower-body injury that held him out of the lineup from mid-December to February. Though he finished the year with a goal, 10 points and a plus-9 rating, he could never truly regain his rhythm and then struggled greatly in the playoffs, where he was a minus-3 against Carolina and ultimately lost his spot in the lineup to Jonas Siegenthaler.
Jonas Siegenthaler, D
Siegenthaler looked NHL ready as he came into training camp, but he ended up heading down to Hershey to start the season. However, in light of an injury to Christian Djoos, Siegenthaler capitalized on the opportunity and made a statement with an outstanding performance during his stint in the middle of the season, recording 31 hits and 44 blocks in 26 games. He also impressed in the first round and surely earned a roster spot next year.
Braden Holtby, G
After struggling in the 2017-18 regular season but coming up huge en route to the Capitals' first Cup title, many looked to Holtby to have a bounce-back season. While he was decent, he still showed his fair share of struggles, putting up a 2.82 GAA and .911 save percentage, the second-worst regular season showing in his career behind last year, where he registered a 2.99 GAA and .907 save %.
Pheonix Copley, G
In his first year up in the NHL backing up Braden Holtby, Copley proved to be solid and consistent in the crease for Washington with a 2.90 GAA and .905 save percentage, which is decent for a rookie. However, there's still room for improvement as he enters his sophomore year.
Todd Reirden, Head Coach
After Barry Trotz finally coached Washington to its first Cup title last season, the expectations were somewhat high as Todd Reirden took over and the Capitals looked to repeat. He managed to have a solid first-year though, coaching the Capitals to their fourth-straight Metropolitan Division title; hwever, the season ended early with a first-round exit.
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