WASHINGTON — Another major sports season opens in Washington on Saturday evening when the Washington Capitals take the ice at the Verizon Center and square off with the New Jersey Devils.
The Capitals come into the 2015-2016 NHL season with high expectations, and are a trendy pick to make the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1997-1998.
Although Washington has never won the Stanley Cup, the team has qualified for the playoffs in seven of the past eight seasons, never advancing past the second round.
In those seven playoff appearances, the Capitals have gone 4-7 in playoff series, with six of their seven losses coming in the seventh and final game of each series.
Led by three-time NHL MVP and master goal-scorer Alex Ovechkin, the 2014 Capitals came within one goal of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for what would have been only the third time in franchise history.
Most experts predict that Washington will finish somewhere among the top four in the Eastern Conference, and give the Capitals 14-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup, the seventh best odds in the NHL.
Motivated by last year’s disappointing finish, Ovechkin and company are joined by multiple important new faces, including T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams, with the goal of bringing the Stanley Cup to Washington for the first time.
Oshie, best known for his heroics in the 2014 Winter Olympics, brings both his extremely high shootout success rate and his celebrity status to Washington.
“I’m very excited to be here,” Oshie said in a press conference after coming to Washington in July. “This team’s ready to win, and I’m happy to be an addition to that.”
While Oshie is the bigger name, Williams comes with a tradition of winning. The Capitals new right wing has hoisted the Stanley Cup three separate times, once as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes and twice in the past four years with the Los Angeles Kings.
However, the Capitals will be without some familiar faces, as Troy Brouwer (right wing), Eric Fehr (center), Mike Green (defenseman), and Joel Ward (right wing) have all found new teams.
“This group is a different group. It has different dynamics and we’ve added some pieces to try to improve that,” Washington Head Coach Barry Trotz said in an interview with CBSDC.
The new-look Capitals will have plenty of early-season chances to win over the home crowd, as Washington opens the season on a four-game homestand, the second longest in the NHL.
With the Washington Nationals season having crashed and burned in such a spectacular fashion, and there being no sane thoughts of a Washington Super Bowl run, the Capitals will for once try to buck the curse of the D.C. title drought and bring the city its first major sports championship since 1992.
The Caps’ journey to the Stanley Cup begins Saturday when the puck is scheduled to drop at 7 p.m. on Comcast Sports Network.