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NHL - Washington Capitals 2018-19 season preview, rankings, projections, bold predictions, playoff chances

ESPN.com | Updated: 2018-09-28 00:01:22

With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we're running snapshots of all 31 NHL teams, including point total projections, positional previews, best- and worst-case scenarios and more.

After a long-awaited Stanley Cup victory, what will the Washington Capitals do for an encore?


How they finished in 2017-18: 49-26-7 (105 points), sixth in NHL, first in Metropolitan Division, Stanley Cup champions.

Finally, finally, finally the Capitals ousted the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs. Oh, and they won the Cup, too.

Over/under projected point total (per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook): 97.5

Best-case scenario: Washington makes the playoffs and Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Braden Holtby are again as incredible as they were in the Cup run.

Worst-case scenario: After the long season, Caps players are exhausted. Maybe it was all those Stanley Cup keg stands. Washington begins 2018-19 in a post-Championship malaise and can't work itself out of the funk in time to scare the rest of the Metro.

Forwards overview: It's nearly the same group as last season. GM Brian MacLellan was able to keep the band back together, and the only true competition at training camp was for fourth-line center. NHL rank: Sixth

Defense overview: The first two pairings are excellent; the third pairing gives us pause. It will be interesting to see if they look similar to last season. New head coach Todd Reirdan coached the defense but might be less involved given his new role. NHL rank: 13th

Goalie overview: Braden Holtby posted career lows in save percentage (.907) and goals-against average (2.99) in the regular season, and he didn't play as much as he wanted. (Philipp Grubauer started 35 games). Now without a proven backup, Holtby might get the workload he prefers -- and return to form. NHL rank: Ninth

Special teams: The Caps had the seventh-best power play but only 15th-best penalty kill last season. With the same personnel, they should finish about the same this season.

Pipeline overview: The Caps just won a Stanley Cup with a core of players who were drafted by the team, showing that they've had tremendous success over the years. The fact that they're this low is largely due to their top talent making it to the NHL quickly. The Caps have one of the two best goalie prospects in hockey in Ilya Samsonov but carry an otherwise shallow pool of options. Read more -- Chris Peters

Fantasy nugget: The reigning champs are bringing back, more or less, the same offense to defend their title. Alex Ovechkin had quite the summer with Lord Stanley's mug and will have to put in some work to avoid a Cup hangover. Ovechkin had his best season since the triple-digit heydays of 2009-10 and was one goal shy of 50. He's 33 this season but showed no lack of gas in the tank just two months ago. If your league counts shots, you can argue him as your first overall pick. Read more -- Sean Allen

Coach on the hot seat? Reirdan will get to prove why he was so coveted as an assistant. Considering the drama that broiled with Barry Trotz -- and the fact that management badly wanted to promote Reirdan -- he should have a pretty comfortable cushion.

Bold prediction: MacLellan is forced into making an unemotional decision and trades away one of his Stanley Cup-winning players at the trade deadline.

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