The Capitals got off to a slow start last year, which was fun for the folks who like to rag on them and Alex Ovechkin and stuff. Then, Ovechkin got things figured out, won the Hart Trophy, and was so good he made the All-NHL team at two separate positions. They won the Southeast Division, as per usual, but then in the first round they lost to the New York Rangers in seven games. Tough series, tough loss, but not enough for Washington, a team that has been very good for a very long time but has yet to reach the Stanley Cup Final. Now, they have had to say goodbye to the Southeast, and their pretty much guaranteed three seed.
It's cool though, because Ovechkin is still around. He scored 32 goals and 56 points in 48 games last season. Adam Oates' style of play seems to be working just fine. Nicklas Backstrom is still around. Mike Green is sometimes healthy. John Carlson seems good. Troy Brouwer managed to score 19 goals, which is interesting. Joel Ward.... exists. It's not just Ovechkin.
It is not all positive, or lukewarmly positive, however. Mike Ribeiro left. However, they were able to replace him with Mikhail Grabovski, who I expect to have a bounce back season, and Martin Erat is still around after last year's trade. Brooks Laich slipped my mind until this exact moment. He missed almost all of last season. Dmitry Orlov may be ready to contribute. In net, the Caps seemed to finally realize that playing Michal Neuvirth is only for the most grave of situations. Braden Holtby is a good goalie. He could be very good. He is their clear starter, and that is helpful.
This is still a very good team, but I don't know if most folks think of them as elite anymore. A Cup run is certainly possible, I am not betting against Ovechkin, but their new division features teams like the Rangers and Penguins. They will have to look longingly at the Panthers and Lightning from a distance. Washington is going back to the playoffs, and maybe they will win a round. You know, business as usual, but perhaps that should be where the expectations lie at this point.