NHL Season Preview: Washington Capitals eye repeat success

The 102nd edition of the NHL begins later today with holders Washington Capitals against Boston Bruins among four opening-day clashes ahead of a season that looks set to offer opportunities for clients of Sportradar and Betradar.

Sportradar provides real-time play-by-play and game statistics via the NHL’s Hockey Information Tracking System (HITS) to media and technology companies worldwide, while products such as our official API and Live Match Tracker will help power operations for our sports media and betting clients worldwide.

To mark the start of the latest NHL campaign, Sportradar Sports Writer Brandon Warne takes a look back at the finale of the previous season and what to expect on the ice over the coming seven months.

By Brandon Warne

It was a series that couldn’t have been better scripted in Hollywood. The downtrodden franchise playing in the nation’s capital — heck, even donning that exact name across their chest — against the infant in the room in the Vegas Golden Knights.

If Disney wrote it, nobody would’ve believed it and it’d have been a straight-to-DVD release like each of the “Air Bud” sequels.

But it did happen, and oh man was it terrific.

Photo via Washington Capital (Facebook.com/Capitals)

No matter who won, it was going to make for a great, perhaps “30-for-30” worthy story. The Golden Knights were the modern-day 1993-94 Florida Panthers, taking it a step further not only by finishing over. 500, but getting to the Stanley Cup Final — something the Panthers needed three seasons to do.

The Panthers used to be the standard for expansion-era excellence; now teams in every sport added from here on out will be measured against the Golden Knights, and most likely be found wanting.

But if the Golden Knights were the infant of the NHL, the Washington Capitals are the guy we all grew up with who had tons of potential but never quite broke through. In 43 years of hockey in DC, the Capitals made the playoffs 28 times. Twenty years ago they lost the Stanley Cup Final in a sweep to an incredible Detroit Red Wings team.

That Red Wings team was named one of the 10 best in league history by NHL.com last summer.

Since that loss, there had been just six seasons of missing the playoffs for Capitals fans. Since the 2007-08 season, the team had missed the playoffs just once.

And maybe that’s where fans can get a little spoiled. There are varying levels of fan experiences, like the fan whose team is never good but someday wins a title. That would have been at play for Vegas fans, assuming they most likely were fans of another team before this one popped up. Then there are fans of teams like the Red Wings or New York Yankees who expect excellence every single year.

But another type of fan is the tortured soul whose team is good enough to make the playoffs every year, but not make enough noise to hoist the big cup in June.

That typifies the Capitals fan. Take a look at their playoff marks since 2007-08:

  • 07-08: Lost in Quarterfinals
  • 08-09: Lost in Semifinals
  • 09-10: Lost in Quarterfinals
  • 10-11: Lost in Semifinals
  • 11-12: Lost in Semifinals
  • 12-13: Lost in Quarterfinals
  • 13-14: Missed Playoffs (first team out, missed by three points)
  • 14-15: Lost in Second Round (new playoff format)
  • 15-16: Lost in Second Round
  • 16-17: Lost in Second Round

This kind of consistency is what makes teams churn through five head coaches through that time — three full-time guys, two interim coaches — despite being a very good team over the entire stretch.

The Capitals took down the Golden Knights in five games, sealing the deal on Vegas’ home ice with a pair of demoralizing goals in the third period to come back from a 3-2 deficit for a 4-3 win. With the aforementioned track record of the Capitals being what it is, it’s easy to see why Alexander Ovechkin appeared across all media living his best life, as well.

He brought the Stanley Cup with him to sporting events and took countless photos with it — in poses ranging from interesting to possibly inappropriate — and it’s easy to see why. Ovechkin was in just his second year in the league when this dry spell for the Capitals started, and he’s been there for the entire ride.

With a new coach at the helm – former assistant Todd Reirden – and much of the band still together, all eyes will be on whether the Capitals can avoid a hangover from their long-awaited Stanley Cup success and deal with the elevated expectations that come with being champions.

A patchy pre-season, which saw Capitals claim just two wins from seven ahead of Wednesday’s opener against Boston Bruins, doesn’t seem to have dampened expectations too much and Reirden will be hopeful of achieving one of life’s trickiest tasks – the difficult second album.

Ahead of the new NHL season, why not test your knowledge of last year’s action with our Big Ice Hockey Quiz?

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