It’s the holiday season and time and the Washington Capitals have been really, really good this year. So if Santa Claus needs any ideas for some last minute gifts, here are five things on their Christmas wish list (besides more playoff success or two front teet for Alex Ovechkin) to slip under the tree:
1. A weaker division
The old Southeast Division never seemed to do much for the Caps in terms of playoff preparation, so you may think the Caps will benefit from a tougher division. Even if you subscribe to this theory, however, the Metropolitan Division is a bit much. Five of the NHL's top seven teams hail from the Metropolitan Division. After winning 10 straight games, the Philadelphia Flyers have the seventh-best record in the NHL and still find themselves in fifth place in the Metro. While the Caps still look like they are in good shape for the playoffs — they have an eight point lead over Carolina who is the first team out — that still leaves them with the daunting task of having to play two Metropolitan teams in the first two rounds of the postseason. Sure, they could finish in a wild card spot and move to Atlantic side of the bracket, but then they would likely meet Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. So, let's cool things down, Metropolitan Division.
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2. More goals for Evgeny Kuznetsov
Kuznetsov is finally starting to emerge from a rough slump that began at the end of last season. He now has eight points in his last seven games. That’s good. The problem is that all eight of those points are assists. Kuznetsov’s at his best when he’s setting up his linemates, but he needs to be able to light the lamp himself too. He scored 20 goals last season but right now has only three through 30 games.
3. An end to Andre Burakovsky’s slump
Burakovsky scored two goals in the first game of the season and that is the last time he’s found the back of the net. Burakovsky is a forward with top-six skill, but his current slump is clearly affecting his play and has earned him a seat in the press box for three straight games. The Caps need him to shake off this slump and return to his top-six form.
4. More cap space
With the recall of Zach Sanford, chances are you have more money in your bank account than Washington has cap space. And things aren't going to get any better after the season. T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, Daniel Winnik and Karl Alzner will all be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season while Kuznetsov, Burakovsky, Brett Connolly, Dmitry Orlov, Nate Schmidt and Philipp Grubauer will be restricted free agents. Several of these players will be due for raises which means Brian MacLellan will have to make some tough decisions. The biggest question will be whether to re-sign Oshie or Alzner because it will take a Christmas miracle for the team to find a way to sign both.
5. More games with the throwback red jersey
The Caps’ vintage red alternate jersey is the exact opposite of an ugly Christmas sweater. It is a thing of beauty that should be worn at every conceivable opportunity.
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