Hockey fans from the capital of the United States tune in every game to cheer on a Capitals team led by a Russian superstar, an elite Swedish center and a Canadian goalie. Hockey truly is an international game with many players coming from all around the world to don those red sweaters.
We know who some of the best Capitals were, but what if you separated the players by their native countries? Where has the best Capitals players really come from? Let's look at some of the best players in franchise history to determine what the best lineup is (two wings, one center, two defensemen and one goalie).
First up, let's look at the Russians.
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Alex Semin
Ovechkin is a given, no explanation needed. I had to think a moment about Kuznetsov and Sergei Fedorov for centers, but really it was no choice. If Fedorov had been with the Caps in his prime, there would be no question, but he ultimately played 70 games for Washington. That's it. Sure, he scored the series-winning Game 7 goal against the New York Rangers in 2009. That was great. Kuznetsov had the overtime winner over the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2018, a goal of far more significance. He could have easily won the Conn Smythe in the Cup run. Kuznetsov is the guy and really it's not close.
I know some people aren't going to like the Semin pick either. People like to refer to him as a "bust," but he played 469 games for the Caps with 197 goals and 408 points. He was not a bust. Did he underachieve? No question. He had the talent to be one of the best players in the history of the franchise, but to pretend like he didn't producer or do anything during his tenure in Washington is just inaccurate, he just could have done so much more. His 408 points give him the third-most points among Russian Caps' players. That's more than Kuznetsov (389) and in fewer games (469 to 479). There's really no other winger worth considering over Semin.
Dmitry Orlov - Sergei Gonchar
Before he played for Pittsburgh, Gonchar played 10 seasons for Washington after being selected by the Caps in the first round of the 1992 draft. Ovechkin is the only Russian player with more points in franchise history. Gonchar was one of the best puck-moving defensemen in the NHL at a time when those type of players were not valued as highly as they should have been. He scored 144 goals and 416 total points during his 10 years in Washington and is easily the best Russian defenseman in franchise history.
Orlov is a distant second, but he does still make the list. Though he does at times have a penchant for giving up awful turnovers, he is still a highly skilled puck-mover who is capable of dangling through a team for a goal or knocking opponents on their butts.
Very soon, perhaps even by next year, this answer will be Ilya Samsonov. As good as Samsonov has been, he has played only 26 games for Washington and that's not enough to supplant Varlamov. Looking back on it, I was surprised that Varlamov only played 59 games for Washington, but he posted a .917 save percentage and 2.39 GAA in his time with the Caps, played 19 playoff games and provided one of the most iconic saves in the history of the franchise. It's not "The Save," but it was still pretty good and it was against Sidney Crosby so bonus points there.
Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS:
- Gretzky knew: Ovi would win Cup
- Hanging it up: When will Ovi know?
- Sochi shootout: Kovy, Oshie haven't talked about it