The Washington Capitals are in position to make the playoffs again, but their chances have diminished considerably over the past three seasons.
The Capitals finished 30th in points per game in 2015-16 and 26th in 2016-17, but have been a top-four team in the Eastern Conference since the start of the 2019-20 season.
They finished the season at 15-4-1, but the loss of defenseman Alex Ovechkin to the World Cup of Hockey and the departure of goalie Braden Holtby have led to a major dip in offense.
They also have lost center Alex Okafor, who was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for a conditional seventh-round pick.
But the Capitals have the pieces to be a legitimate playoff team again.
Washington will likely be one of the league’s most balanced teams again, with the Capitals having seven forwards and five defensemen with at least 200 minutes played, the Capitals’ strength.
And they have an elite goaltender in Philipp Grubauer, who has gone on to win the Vezina Trophy twice.
The Caps also have a young core that has the potential to be one the best in the NHL again.
This group includes young forwards Justin Williams, Connor Murphy, Mikhail Grabovski, Brooks Laich and Dmitry Orlov.
But there are a few questions about how this group will perform in the postseason.
Washington is going to be in the middle of a big rebuild, with Grubau being the only veteran in the roster.
They’ll have to figure out what to do with the two second-round picks in the 2019 draft, which they received as part of the Ovekkin trade.
They can also use those picks to add a top prospect or two.
If they do, Washington will have a solid core of talent and could make a deep playoff run.
Washington’s top prospect, Jakub Vrana, is a highly skilled defenseman who has played with some of the best goalies in the world in Alex Ovi and Roberto Luongo.
He has the skill set to be an elite goalie in the league.
But he was not the best goalie in hockey this season, posting a 0.8 GAA and a .919 save percentage in 17 games.
He is a big man who has the speed to match up with bigger forwards, but he also can be a little inconsistent.
He was injured during the Stanley Cup playoffs in November and has yet to play a game for Washington.
Grubar is the perfect replacement for Gruba, and the Capitals could be a very dangerous team again this season.
Grube’s numbers are down this season as he has been the team’s second-line center.
But his defensive play and ability to score the puck make him an intriguing prospect.
Washington has a strong team defense that is expected to be among the best teams in the West this season and could be one to watch in the second round.
They have some very talented forwards on defense.
Jake Muzzin and Mikhail Grubanin are both 6-foot-3, 190-pound defensemen who are developing into strong defensive pairings.
Grubs’ ability to protect the puck makes him a dangerous option for the Capitals.
He could be the most talented defender in the entire league this season after leading the league with 11 goals.
He also has the physical tools to be successful in the National Hockey League.
Grabovs potential to become a top defenseman is another big question mark.
Grabby has never been a dominant player, but his defensive ability and scoring ability could make him a very tough matchup for bigger forwards.
Grabber also has a physical edge and the Washington Capitals might have to keep him away from the puck in order to stop him.
Grubi also has not been the most consistent defenseman.
Grubbovs offensive game is underrated, but Grubo has a tough physical game that can sometimes lead to some bad penalties.
GrUBo is also a hard-working guy, which is a problem for a defenseman.
He doesn’t play a lot of games and doesn’t have a ton of ice time, which could make it difficult for him to perform at a high level.
The Washington Senators have a very young team and will need to build up some of its young talent in order for them to be able to compete for a playoff spot again.
The Senators finished 23rd in goals per game this season behind the Anaheim Ducks and Winnipeg Jets, and they have not been able to score enough to make up for the fact that they have one of their worst offensive teams this season by a wide margin.
The team’s goaltending is also very weak.
They will be without Ilya Bryzgalov for a while, and that could put pressure on the team to be more physical in the offensive zone.
The Ottawa Senators are a young team that is coming off an 11-game losing streak and will be hoping to build off that.
The last time they were able to do that was in 2015, when they won the Presidents