To open the season, the Washington Capitals hovered around the middle of the pack as they played .500 hockey. A mixture of lack of production from key players and the injuries to Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson left the team without two of their best players. All that started to change back in December as the Capitals hit their stride; they went 11-2-2 in the month. Luckily for them, as they found their footing, the New Jersey Devils lost theirs, allowing the Caps to make up ground fast.
The Capitals now find themselves within striking distance of both the Devils and New York Rangers for the second or third spots in the Metro Division. The Capitals have an overall record of 22-14-6, good for 50 points. Even if they can’t secure one of the three division spots, they have control of the top spot in the wild card.
What makes the Capitals even more dangerous is the fact that they have been able to rebound without Backstrom and Wilson in the lineup. They got great news, though, as both players will return to the lineup tonight to make their season debuts. Backstrom had had offseason left hip resurfacing surgery on a nagging injury that had hampered his ability to skate. Wilson, on the other hand, underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee. He was injured in Game 1 of the Capitals’ first-round series against the Florida Panthers on May 3.
The return of both players is a big win for the Capitals, as both players are capable of putting up 20-plus goals and 50-plus points in a season. Backstrom can be seen as the most important player as he will slide back into his first-line center role alongside long-time teammate Alex Ovechkin.
Ovechkin already has 29 goals and 48 points on the season, and with the return of Backstrom, we could see those already impressive numbers skyrocket even more.
While Wilson brings scoring to this lineup, he also brings a level of toughness that is impossible to replace. Wilson is known as a dirty player, but when he is on your team, he’s the guy you want skating beside you.
Now that the Capitals are halfway through the season, they are getting reinforcements at a crucial time, as the Metro is up for grabs.
While the Capitals are gaining two stars, they are still without top defenseman John Carlson who they placed on long-term injured reserve to gain the necessary salary cap space to activate both players. Carlson has been out since Dec 23rd after taking a puck to the face. There is no timeframe for Carlson to come back.
The Capitals will need every win they can get as the Metro has become crowded with the Devils taking the next step and the pesky New York Islanders hanging around for now. They will have the opportunity to have a strong second half of the season now that they are as healthy as ever, even if they are still missing John Carlson.