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2018-19 Washington Capitals season in review

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2018-19 Washington Capitals season in review

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.

Here's the Great 8's season in review.

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.

Check out Backstrom's season report card here.

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.

Here's a look at Oshie's season.

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.

Here's his season in review.

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.

Here's Vrana's entire season in review.

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.

Tune in to see how he performed this season here.

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.

Take a look at Connolly's season in review right here.

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.

Check out Smith-Pelly's year in review here.

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.

Here's how Burakovsky stacked up this 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.

Here's Boyd's report card for this year.

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.

Take a look back at Stephenson's campaign here.

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.

Check out how his year in review here.

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.

Take a look back at Carlson's season here.

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.

Check out Niskanen's year in review here.

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.

Here's how Orlov's season played out.

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.

Check out how Orpik stacked up right here.

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.

Here's how Djoos stacked up this season.

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.

Take a look at Siegenthaler's rookie year here.

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 %.

Check out Holtby's season in review here.

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.

Find Copley's season in review here.

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.

Here's Reirden's season report card.

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Caps GM Brian MacLellan is not worried about any disadvantage from the bye week, says the Cup is 'up for grabs'

Caps GM Brian MacLellan is not worried about any disadvantage from the bye week, says the Cup is 'up for grabs'

With a round-robin tournament to determine the top four seeds in each conference heading into the playoffs, it is fair to wonder what was the point of the regular season? Considering those top teams will get a bye and then go on to play a team that just won a series in the play-in round, one could certainly argue that the 24-team format the NHL will use when it returns to play actually puts the top teams at a disadvantage.

But you're not going to hear any complaining from Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan.

"I don't think there's a perfect solution here on the playoff," MacLellan said Friday in a video conference. "I think the league has done a reasonable good job of just trying to include all of the issues they can, and make it as competitive and compelling as possible. And I think it's very interesting how it could play out. It could be great to watch on TV."

Over the course of an 82-game regular season, there is incentive to finish high in the standings. The system is set up to try to give the top seeds a clear advantage in the playoffs in order to add meaning to the regular season. But that's not the system we have in 2020.

Each of the top four seeds in each conference receives a bye through the play-in round. Considering we don't know what teams are going to look like or how difficult it will be to get back up to game speed, that is a definite advantage. Even in a normal year, we see several upsets in the playoffs so the fact a team like the Caps are exempt from that is a definite boon. The problem is what happens after.

When the Caps take the ice in the round of 16, they will have played some exhibition games, three round-robin games to determine seeding and that's it. Their opponent will be coming off a playoff series. We may be calling it a play-in round, but that's just semantics. It's a do-or-die playoff series. It does not seem likely that Washington will be at the same intensity level or game speed as their opponent in that first round after three round-robin games.

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While MacLellan acknowledged the set up may provide the lower seeds with an advantage entering the round of 16, he thought the idea that it was unfair to the top seeds was overblown.

"[It] could be a slight disadvantage," he said. "You're going to play a few exhibition games and then you play a round-robin tournament. But I still think those games are going to be competitive against good teams. I mean you're playing Tampa, you're playing Boston, you're playing Philly - all real good teams. I don't know that it's going to be that big a deal for the next round, and they'll be playing competitive games. So I think it's a fairly level playing field. It's not perfect, but I think reasonably it's good."

Even if MacLellan is not buying the play-in teams getting a competitive advantage, he did acknowledge that there is not nearly as much incentive to earn the top seed considering there will be no home-ice advantage.

While being the "home team" will still earn teams a few slight advantages like getting the second line change, obviously with all the games being played in hub cities with no fans, the round-robin series won't be for "home ice."

“I don’t know, you’re in a hub city, what is home-ice advantage," MacLellan said. "You get last shift, you get your last change. I’m assuming that is a competitive advantage so seeding could become important. You would want that advantage throughout the playoffs. You look at Boston and Boston has probably earned to be a home ice, last change team throughout the playoffs, but they have to go through a mini-series to determine their seed. It’s important to a certain extent, but the fact that you are playing in a hub city lessens it a little bit.”

MacLellan is not going to come out and say this system puts Washington at a disadvantage, but there is no question there is a lot less on the line in the round-robin tournament than there is in the play-in rounds considering there is no home ice. But that fact is that we don't know what any of this is going to look like. All of this is unprecedented and anything can happen. For MacLellan, he's not going to worry about what advantages the Caps do or do not have because to him, the Cup is on the line and that's all he's focused on.

"I think the championship's up for grabs with the format is the way it is right now," MacLellan said. "A lot of teams could upset other teams and anything could happen, basically. And I think it would be entertaining, it would be compelling, and it'd be fun to watch. If you're one of the teams that gets upset, it might not be as fun. But it could be wildly entertaining."

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Alex Ovechkin's message amid George Floyd protests: 'Respect and love each other'

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Alex Ovechkin's message amid George Floyd protests: 'Respect and love each other'

While we all miss hockey and sports, there are things a heck of a lot more important than sports going on in our country right now and Alex Ovechkin added his voice on Monday with a hopeful Twitter message.

Washington, D.C., like much of the country, is experiencing massive protests in the wake of the senseless death of George Floyd. While Ovechkin may not be American, he certainly has become a public figure in Washington and he tweeted out a message asking everyone to "respect and love each other."

Stay safe out there everyone.

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