Capitals Weekend Preview: Will Alex Ovechkin Win Another Stanley Cup?

Alex Ovechkin is targeting the ninth 50-goal season of his NHL career (Image: All-Pro Reels)
Alex Ovechkin is targeting the ninth 50-goal season of his NHL career (Image: All-Pro Reels)

Alex Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals face a race against time to win another Stanley Cup. After three first-round exits on the spin, general manager Brian MacLellan is under pressure to orchestrate a deep run in 2021-22, and the odds are stacked against him.

With a dozen fixtures left to play, the Capitals are fourth in the Metropolitan Division, occupy the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference, and are unlikely to rise in the standings. As a result, Washington will meet a powerhouse in round one, either the Florida Panthers or Carolina Hurricanes.

And that’s the problem.

The Caps haven’t won a series since lifting Lord Stanley in 2017-18 and are tipped to crash out early again in 2022. Considering Ovechkin turns 37 in September and won’t be able to produce offence at an elite clip forever, it’s clear Washington’s window of contention is closing.

It’s thus no surprise that the Capitals head down the stretch wondering if they have enough in the tank to cause a surprise in the postseason. With a difficult back-to-back on the docket this weekend, we’ll soon be closer to finding out.

NHL Weekend Preview: Capitals versus Penguins, Burins

On Saturday [9 April], the Capitals will travel up the road to Pittsburgh to face off against the Penguins in a game that could cement Washington’s place in the standings.

The Pennsylvanian outfit start the weekend six points ahead of the Capitals, enough for third position in the Metropolitan Division. If the Capitals lose on the road, they’ll find themselves eight points back of Pittsburgh with 11 games to play – a potentially unassailable margin.

Scheduled to begin at 20:00 on the NHL Network, the fixture offers another chance to watch Ovechkin square off against old foe Sidney Crosby. Both are in fine form and seeking to add another Stanley Cup to their résumés.

Sidney Crosby has 72 points in 59 appearances for the Pittsburgh Penguins this season (Image: NHL)

On Sunday [10 April], Capital One Arena will pr ovide the setting for a must-watch clash between Washington and the Boston Bruins. It’s a game the travelling side cannot afford to drop points in, they’re involved in a three-team scrap to avoid dropping into a wildcard spot in the Atlantic Division.

David Pastrnak is the player to watch for Boston, the right-shooting Czech has 71 points in 69 appearances this term and is always dangerous in the offensive zone. Coverage of Caps-Bruins will begin at 18:30 live on FreeSports.

Alex Ovechkin Targets Ninth 50-Goal Season in the NHL

Although the Capitals are outsiders for the Stanley Cup, their captain still has plenty of personal records on the line.

Even with Washington meandering in the standings, Ovechkin’s goal chase remains a subject of interest. He’s already found twine on 43 occasions this term, leaving him just seven strikes shy of the ninth 50-goal season of his career. He’s on pace for 51 according to Elite Prospects.

There’s also the small matter of Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals record to consider; Ovechkin needs 121 lamp lighters to tie the Canadian’s tally of 894. With four seasons left on the Russian’s contract, the race to become the NHL’s all-time leading marksman is on.

Goaltending Remains Washington’s Top Concern

After kicking tyres on the goaltending market for months, MacLellan opted to stick with pending RFAs Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. His decision sparked consternation amongst the team’s supporters, who had hoped their GM would secure an upgrade in net.

To put it bluntly, Washington’s top concern is between the pipes. While Vanecek and Samsonov have demonstrated their quality in spells, neither has seized control of the net in D.C.

However, the organisation remains optimistic about the duo’s future – and it’s easy to see why after Samsonov dazzled versus the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday [6 April]. The Russian was in resplendent form, stopping 25 shots on route to a clutch 4-3 win.

“He made a couple of big saves throughout the game,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “You need that, you need those big ones and I thought he was good. But he also seemed to keep himself in the game and dialled in. He had to.”

Samsonov made a string of key stops against Tampa – including a huge stick save in the third period.

“They pushed and pressed the entire game,” Laviolette said. “They were behind, they kept coming and without that, you’re going to need some saves from your goaltender. He gave them to us tonight.”

Washington’s netminding depth chart has been in flux all year, with Samsonov and Vanecek taking turns as the team’s presumptive starting goalie. However, that won’t do in the playoffs – the Capitals need certainty in goal.

Will they find it this weekend versus the Bruins and Penguins?

Join the conversation on Twitter, will Alex Ovechkin score over/under 1.5 goals this weekend?

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