Previewing the East: Washington Capitals
NOTE: Over the next several weeks, BlueJackets.com will take an extensive, in-depth look at the Jackets' new opponents in the Eastern Conference. Be on the lookout for photo galleries, analysis, video highlights and more!
Head coach: Adam Oates
Captain: Alex Ovechkin
LAST YEAR: 27-18-3 (57 points); 3rd in the Eastern Conference, lost in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the New York Rangers.
VS. CBJ in '13-14: 10/19, 11/12, 1/17, 1/30
OUTLOOK: The Capitals were stunned in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, falling to the New York Rangers in seven games, including a 5-0 Game 7 loss on home ice. Like the majority of the league, the Capitals had an active off-season that saw the departure of a handful of roster staples and the introduction of several new faces, including the recent signing of center Mikhail Grabovski to a one-year deal. Head coach Adam Oates has a season under his belt (and will get the benefit of a full training camp this year), but it will be interesting to see if the team can thrive under his system for a full 82-game season. The Capitals open their season with a bang against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks (a nationally televised game on NBC Sports Network), and if they pass the first test with a win, there's no limit to the success they will have in the newly-designed Metropolitan Division.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
All eyes will be on the Caps' captain this season after his up-and-down play throughout the shortened 2012-13 season. The team's success has always relied on his energy and scoring, and this season will be no different. Everyone knows Ovechkin is a scoring threat, but he's a physical threat too. He is capable of laying the big hits and fighting to defend his teammates. If Ovechkin puts up the points and plays true to form, the Capitals will have no problem returning to the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2014.
A change of scenery could be just what Grabovski needs. Slated to be the second line center, he filled the hole this summer left by the departure of Mike Ribeiro, who signed a four-year deal with the Phoenix Coyotes. As a former 50-point scorer who had only 16 points in 48 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Grabovski has to prove himself on the scoresheet as a risk worth taking for the Washington Capitals.