NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Washington Capitals.
[Capitals 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]
1. Will they experience the Stanley Cup hangover?
After so many past disappointments in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals' persistence finally paid off last season when they won the first championship in their 43-season history. Now they have to gear up for another season after a short offseason filled with celebrations and not as much time to train. This is uncharted territory for all of them except defenseman Brooks Orpik, the only Capitals player who won the Cup previously (in 2009 with the Pittsburgh Penguins).
Their roster remains mostly intact, with fourth-line center Jay Beagle (signed with the Vancouver Canucks) and backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer (traded to the Colorado Avalanche) the only departures from the lineup they used for their clinching win against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. But even the best teams sometimes have trouble finding the hunger and focus necessary in the first half of the season after. Getting past that will be the first challenge in their quest to repeat.
Video: 31 in 31: Washington Capitals 2018-19 season preview
2. How will Todd Reirden handle the transition from associate coach to coach?
Though Reirden worked mainly with the defensemen and the power play as an assistant and associate coach with the Capitals the past four seasons, he is well-liked by the players and was a popular choice among them to become coach when Barry Trotz resigned after last season and moved on to coach the New York Islanders. As a first-time NHL coach, the 47-year-old will have to find the balance between being liked and making the tough decisions that come with being the guy who has the final say on the bench.
Already knowing the players and going through many of their trials and tribulations the past four seasons will help Reirden with the adjustment. Communication and delegating responsibility will be pivotal.
3. Can Alex Ovechkin do it again?
Ovechkin has had plenty to celebrate this summer, including the birth of his son, Sergei, on Aug. 18. The forward, who will turn 33 on Sept. 17, proved he's still an elite scorer by leading the NHL with 49 goals during the regular season and 15 in the playoffs last season. The Washington captain also silenced his critics with his two-way play and leadership in the postseason, earning the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player of the playoffs.
Ovechkin's success was the payoff for the hard work he put in last offseason to come to training camp in better condition, and what he did to maintain that throughout the season. He'll need a similar commitment to have a chance at similar results this season.
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