Ahh, you smell that? Probably not because you’re on your phone or computer, but hockey is back. That’s the smell I was referring to.
Yes, hockey is back, but, more importantly, that means that Washington Capitals’ hockey is back. I haven’t written and I’ve hardly tweeted about the Capitals since the season ended because, well; it was the offseason. Like the players, I unplug when the season ends. The only difference is I unplug from Chirpin’ DMV where I make 0 dollars and 0 cents and there’s no pressure on me at all. But damn do I need to unwind after a long season.
The NHL preseason is coming to its end, and I am tuning in for my first preseason Caps game tonight. They are currently tied 2-2 with the Boston Bruins in the second period. The point of all of this is that just watching the Capitals play has inspired me to get back into the swing of things and get the blogs buzzing again. So, I figured why not throw out some takes I have for the upcoming season? I’ve got thoughts, and doggone it I wanna share them.
The only thing is I don’t think a lot of these takes are that hot, but a lot of them aren’t that cold either…they’re just takes. That’s why I cleverly titled this “room-temperature takes,” because my wit and creativity never needs to unwind or unplug. I guess they’re just more predictions? Who knows and who cares, let’s just dive in. These are in no particular order.
5. Alex Ovechkin Scores 38 Goals
Crazy specific number, I know, but I just went with my gut here. I was originally going to write that I didn’t think he would lead the team in goals, but I couldn’t say that with my chest so I backed off and went with a solid number instead.
Of course I hope Ovi can score more than 38 goals, I’m just trying to be realistic here. He looked a lot more human this past season than we’ve been used to throughout his incredibly durable career, and I find it hard to believe that it was a one-off at age 36. Hopefully he is feeling re-energized after inking a beeeeeeeaautiful 5-year, $47.5million contract this past offseason that makes his pursuit of Wayne Gretzky’s goal record all the more possible. With that seeming to be his new goal, I would love to see him kick things off the right way with a 50-tuck season, however, I just am not sure that’s what we’ll get. 38 is where my head is at, but don’t think for one second that’s where my heart’s at.
4. Ilya Samsonov is Still a Fringe Starter with Vitek Vanecek
This is another one I hope to be wrong about, I just have this feeling in the pit of my stomach that Samsonov and Vitek will share the net again.
Now, this is a bad thing because Sammy is primed to take that next step and be the franchise goalie for Washington, of course. They drafted him 22nd-overall in 2015 — which is a pretty high spot to be selected for a goalie. The pressure is on six years later to take that next step. The positive out of this would be that Washington would have two fringe-starting goalies, which is better than one of them being a fringe-NHLer. Last year was an odd year, and Sammy didn’t exaclty live up to expectations as Braden Holtby’s replacement. His numbers were meh, but he really showcased his talent when he was called upon in the postseason. It appeared as though he was ready to take that next step. So, hopefully Sammy takes that next step this year and proves me wrong. If not, hopefully he at least stays off the damn COVID list.
3. Evgeny Kuznetsov has a Solid Year
This is one I am absolutely praying for.
Evgeny Kuznetsov is one of my favourite players, and it’s no secret. Ever since he entered the league, he has been one of the most creative and skilled players in the game. When he is buzzing, he is also one of the most dominant players in the game. Look no further than when he tore through the 2018 postseason for 32 points in 24 games en route to a Stanley Cup victory. Nobody would’ve been surprised or upset if he had won the Conn Smythe that year, he was that dominant.
Since then, however, Kuzy has been meh to say the least. His point totals have decreased each year since, and he has gotten into trouble off-ice after being busted for cocaine and suspended by the NHL and IIHF, and then ending up on the COVID list twice last year as well. Everybody wanted him gone this past offseason, and the rumours were so prominent and coming from such reliable sources that it seemed like it was actually going to happen. I was the only one in this guy’s corner and telling everybody he needs at least one more year. My wish has been granted.
However, this is likely his last chance with the Capitals. That’s why I think this year he will get back to his old ways. He has to be more determined than ever, his literal career depends on it.
Kuzy has come in this year and talked about being more focused and, based on the two periods of preseason hockey I have watched in which he scored, he looks pretty good. Joking aside, he just seems like a guy who is going to put his head down and go to work to get back in the good books of Capitals’ management and fans’ hearts. I am banking on this guy having a bounce-back year for the Capitals and showing why they kept him around. I’m not thinking anything crazy, but I wanna say this guy can get 75-85 points this year. Let’s roll Kuzy, more of this:
2. Anthony Mantha Scores 20ish Goals
I still always forget that this guy is on the Capitals now, but he is.
I have to say, this is the one I am probably the least confident about. I mean, I just have no idea what to expect. This guy has looked really good since he joined the Capitals and scored four goals in his first four games with the team, but he was so snake-bitten in the playoffs that it was absurd. Honestly, I feel bad because the pressure on this guy to perform is insane given what it took to get him on the team. When you’re traded for a first-round pick, a second-round pick, Dick Panik and a stud in Jakub Vrana, there is some weight that comes with that and I think he is very aware of that.
He’s been on pace for 30 goals in his career before. I’d say his potential is 40 goals, but I want to be realistic. It’s his first year with the team, so I want to say he will AT LEAST get 20 goals this year. That’s a good number and I know he can exceed it, but he will at least bury 20 goals for the good guys. The Ant Man will show us what he can do.
P.S. He just scored the OT winner while I’m writing this and it was disgusting. He might score 50.
1. Capitals Finish 2nd in Their Division
I was recently talking to a friend who told me he didn’t think the Capitals would make playoffs. See, I always have those thoughts that creep into my mind too. “Will the Capitals be like the San Jose Sharks and finally get really bad out of nowhere?” But, I don’t think this year’s the year.
I don’t think they will be the best team in their division, but I still think this team has enough experience of getting it done in the regular season and enough firepower on the roster to lock up a secure playoff position in the East. The Metropolitan Division is tough and there are a lot of question marks revolving around teams like the Pittsburgh Scumbags, the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers. There is a lot of uncertainty, but I remain fairly confident that the Capitals will keep their name among the top of the division and keep the dream of another Cup alive for another year.
Wow, not a lot of these were that positive, huh? I know I am usually the one defending these guys, I just don’t like to get my hopes up. Expect a little and hope for a lot, that’s my view of things. Do I want Ovi to score 67 goals and for Samsonov to become the best goalie on the planet? Yeah, no shit I do. But Ovi is getting older and Sammy is still a young goalie and there are just too many variables for me to assume that everything is going to be perfect for this team.
It feels good to get this first blog under my feet. Like playing in a preseason game and shaving off the extra lbs after a long summer of just textbook getting after it. Now, time to prep for the regular season and get re:CAPS firing on all cylinders again. Stay tuned for what’s coming (spoiler alert: big things) and remember: Tom Wilson collects cheques from the New York Rangers and that has not and will not change.