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Why They Will Win

Capitals, Alex Ovechkin will finally win Cup

Washington captain, thanks to solid goaltending, deep defense, gets championship

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- This is the season the Washington Capitals will finally win the Stanley Cup.

You probably have read that before, but his time it will happen.

The Capitals haven't reached the Eastern Conference Final since they made their lone trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 1998.


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They won the Presidents' Trophy in 2009-10, but were upset in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals by the Montreal Canadiens. Last season, they won the Presidents' Trophy, but were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Second Round.

They're back again as Presidents' Trophy winners and dreaming again of winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in their history. This year, the dream will come true.

This is by far the most complete team of the Alex Ovechkin era, which began when the Capitals captain entered the League as a 20-year-old rookie in 2005-06. The Capitals are deep on offense, deep on defense and they have one of the best goaltenders in the League in Braden Holtby, the Vezina Trophy winner last season and a likely finalist again this season.

Video: MIN@WSH: Ovechkin beats Dubnyk with one-timer

Last season, the Capitals had eight players who scored at least 10 goals. This season, after adding Brett Connolly and Lars Eller last summer and putting them on the third line with Andre Burakovsky, 11 of their 12 forwards have scored at least 10.

Although Ovechkin's goal production has dropped from 50 goals last season to 33 this season, the team's goal production increased from 248 to 261. And Ovechkin, 31, should be fresher after coach Barry Trotz cut his ice time by more than two minutes per game for most of the season before ramping it up in recent weeks with the Stanley Cup Playoffs approaching.

With a more balanced attack, there's less of a need for Ovechkin, who had 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games last season, to carry the offense. There's also less pressure on second-line center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is playing much better entering the playoffs this season after scoring no goals in his final 20 games last season.

The Capitals are as deep at center as they've ever been with Nicklas Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Eller and Jay Beagle. On defense, the trade for Kevin Shattenkirk on Feb. 27 has given them arguably the deepest top six in the League with lefthanded shots, Karl Alzner, Dmitry Orlov and Brooks Orpik, and righties, John Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Shattenkirk.

Shattenkirk has added another dimension to the Capitals' already dangerous power play with his shot and passing ability from the point.

Last season, after building a huge lead and clinching the Presidents' Trophy with seven games remaining, the Capitals weren't able to flip the switch and play their best when the playoffs began. This season, they were pushed by the Columbus Blue Jackets and Penguins and forced to play at a high level all the way through to lock up first place in the Metropolitan Division, Eastern Conference and League standings in the final week.

This season, there's no need for the Capitals to flip the switch. Since a season-worst four-game losing streak from March 6-12, they've been building their game so it's exactly where they want it to be heading into the playoffs, and it will end with them winning the Stanley Cup.

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