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Washington Capitals: Where team stands during coronavirus break

Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals hold the top spot in the Metropolitan division with hockey on hold. We look back at their season so far and look forward.

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin celebrates his goal during the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center.  Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

With rapid changes throughout the Metropolitan division and the NHL, many believed this was potentially the season in which the Washington Capitals current team starts to dissolve. Alex Ovechkin was entering his 15th NHL season at the age of 34. As the hockey world would say, “he’s got a lot of miles on those legs.” The 8-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner is looking to add a ninth to his case. Ovechkin is tied for the League lead in goals with 48 and the Capitals are in first place in the Metro.

There are some question marks about the future of Ovie with the Caps. The good thing is those don’t need to be answered right now. Ovechkin has another year remaining on his contract past this season. Washington will be able to extend Ovechkin once the NHL calendar flips, though that may be pushed back. Other than that, John Carlson is locked up. Evgeny Kuznetsov is locked up. Nicklas Backstrom is locked up. T.J. Oshie is locked up. Pretty much the entire Caps core is signed long-term. Other than Braden Holtby, who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Looking at the numbers this season, Holtby could be on his way out. Anyway, let’s take a look at where the Caps stand during these tough times.

Where do the Washington Capitals stand during the break?

Record: 41-20-8
Points: 90 (preseason over/under: 99.5)
Place: 1st in Metropolitan (No. 2 overall seed in conference)
Stanley Cup odds (March 10): +1100

It’s been two seasons since the Capitals exorcised the demons and won the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history. That team is pretty much identical to this team and could potentially enter the playoffs on full rest. This is a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s great to have the rest but most of the time momentum is what carries teams in the postseason. Considering nobody has any momentum, we have to favor the veteran teams once the Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway.

Washington has the 5th-best odds to win the Cup as of March 10. They really didn’t have any notable injuries heading into the break and shouldn’t be impacted at all from the layover. Everybody should be pretty much good to go. The Caps offense — particularly the power play — has been an institution for what seems like over a decade. Ovechkin from the left circle. This season has been a little bit different. The offense is No. 2 overall with 3.42 goals per game. The power play is outside the top 17 and isn’t the same. The PP unit has regressed since coach Barry Trotz left and it could be a crutch in the postseason, when special teams are paramount. The other crutch? Holtby.

The goaltending is what could ultimately crush the Caps’ Cup aspirations in the end. Holtby is on pace for the worst numbers of his career — 3.11 GAA, .897 SV% and a wins totals below 30. To put things simply, Holtby isn’t getting himself any additional money on his next contract by his play this season. The Caps don’t have much of a choice but to ride Holtby though. It’s either him or youngster Ilya Samsonov, who has decent numbers in limited work this season, but definitely isn’t ready to lead a team to the Cup. Or is he? We’ve seen inexperienced goalies get hot and win it all lately — Matt Murray, Jordan Binnington. Holtby’s performance in the playoffs is what could make or break the Caps in the end.

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