NHL - METROPOLITAN
Stadium: Capital One Arena
Coach: Peter Laviolette
2021-2022 TEAM LEADERS
The Washington Capitals are an NHL hockey team in the Metropolitan Division based in Washington, D.C. The Capitals were one of the last teams established during the NHL’s expansion period that started in 1967, officially established in 1974.
The Capitals struggled immensely during their first decade in the league, setting the record for the worst season ever attained by any team in NHL history.
However, in recent years, the Capitals have become perennial contenders after building a team around franchise talent Alex Ovechkin. He is on his way to breaking Wayne Gretsky’s legendary goal at the time of publication record.
Washington has won the Stanley Cup only one time in franchise history. The Capitals remain one of the league’s best performing teams since the Salary Cap era began, winning the President’s Trophy 3 times since 2009 and qualifying for the playoffs in 13 of the last 14 seasons.
The Capitals entered the league in 1974 as one of the final teams to be added to the NHL, alongside the Kansas City Scouts. Both teams struggled with a lack of talent, as the rapid expansion of so many teams in such a small amount of time didn’t leave much for the final two franchises.
The Capitals’ inaugural season set a record for the worst season in NHL history, going 8-67-5. The following year wasn’t much better, winning only 11 games in total. It would take the Capitals 8 years to make the playoffs for the first time, though their first postseason appearance in 1983 kicked off a 14 year playoff streak.
The Caps eventually made their first Stanley Cup appearance in 1998 through players like Peter Bondra, Dale Hunter, and Olaf Kölzig but were immediately swept by the Detroit Red Wings. Shortly after, the team entered another rebuild, drafting Alex Ovechkin with the first overall pick in 2004.
Though it would be 14 years until their first-ever Stanley Cup win in 2018, the Capitals still made the postseason every single year from 2008 and onward, with the exception of 2014.
2022 Key Stats
The Capitals are once again one of the top teams in the Metro this year, sitting in third place with a record of 20-8-9 and only 1 point behind both the Rangers and Hurricanes.
Though the team has struggled in recent weeks following an own goal scored by Carl Hagelin on a botched pass on an empty net, Washington ranks 6th in total goals scored with 125. There have been lingering injury problems with the core of players to start the season as well, though the roster has recently returned to full health.
Alex Ovechkin has had a notably fantastic season this year, with 24 goals and 28 assists in 37 games played. Only 1 point behind the league-leading duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Evgeny Kuznetzov is also playing at over a point per game this year, right behind Ovechkin at 35 points in 34 games.
Defenseman John Carlson remains one of the best offensive defensemen in the league, with eight goals and 24 assists in 37 games played.
Goaltending has been a bit more average this year than previous seasons, with the goalie tandem of Vitek Vanecek (,907 SV%) and Ilya Samsonov (.903 SV%) splitting starts on most nights.
Championships Won by the Team
Washington has only won the Stanley Cup one time in their entire franchise history, finally overcoming their playoff shortcomings in 2018. The finals were interesting that year as the Caps faced off against the Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season, who actually finished higher than Washington in overall standings. Despite this, Washington skated away with the cup after beating the Knights 4-1.
Evgeny Kuznetzov led the Capitals in scoring during their 2018 playoff run, with 12 goals and 20 assists in 24 games. Unsurprisingly, Alex Ovechkin led the team in goals scored with 15 goals and 12 assists, securing the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoff MVP.
Netminder Brayden Holtby had a rocky start in the first round against Columbus after losing his starting position to Philip Grubauer for Game 3, but turned his play around quickly and earned a save percentage of .922.
It was also the first-ever cup win for head coach Barry Trotz, who had led the team since 2014; after winning the cup in Washington, Trotz would sign with division rival the New York Islanders for the 2018-2019 season.
Important Team Events
The rivalry between Alex Ovechkin and Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby is one of legend. Both players are a generational talent with regular faceoffs against one another in the same division.
The rivalry was made even greater with both teams being cup contenders throughout the 2010s, meeting in the playoffs in four different 2nd round matchups between 2009-2018.
Unfortunately for the Caps, Washington was on the short end of the stick in most of the matchups- the Penguins would win each of the first three contests in 2009, 2016, and 2017.
To add insult to injury, the Pens would also go on to win the cup in each of those years, leaving Caps fans everywhere wondering what might have been if they could just beat the Penguins in the second round.
Luckily, the Caps came out victorious in 2018 after Evgeny Kuznetzov’s overtime goal in game 6 sent the Capitals to the Eastern Conference Finals and, eventually, the Stanley Cup.
It is nearly impossible to talk about the Washington Capitals without also mentioning the “Great 8,” Alex Ovechkin. In addition to being the Capitals’ all-time scoring leader, Ovechkin is making his way up the NHL’s all-time goals scored records, currently in fourth place with 754 and 12 goals behind third-place Jaromir Jagr.
The current record is, of course, held by Wayne Gretzky and his 894 goals. Ovechkin also holds the league record for powerplay goals scored at 275, surpassing the previous top player Dave Andreychuk and his 274 powerplay goals. Additionally, Ovechkin has accomplished all of this with 1,234 total games played at the time of publication.
For comparison, third-place Jaromir Jagr scored his 766 goals in 1,733 games, and second place Gordie Howe scored his 801 goals in 1,767 games. It’s clear that Ovi has every intention of beating the goals record, and if this season is any indication- he still has plenty of gas still left in his tank.
The Capitals have had a total of 19 coaches in franchise history, with Bryan Murray coaching the most games from 1981-1990 with 672. Murray would win the Jack Adams award for the best coach in the league in 1984. He was ultimately traded out for Terry Murray in 1990.
Bruce Boudreau served as head coach from 2007-2011, bringing the Capitals to the forefront of the league with an impressive regular-season record of 201-88-40 and securing both the Jack Adams award for coaching in 2009 and the President’s Trophy as the top team in the league in 2010.
Unfortunately, Boudreau’s regular-season success couldn’t quite translate to the postseason, as he would finish his time in Washington with a record of 17-20.
Barry Trotz was the team’s head coach during their 2018 Stanley Cup win, coaching from 2014-2018. Trotz won numerous awards during his stay in Washington, including President’s Trophy wins in 2016 and 2017 and the Jack Adams award for coaching in 2016. After he departed from the team in 2018, the Capitals have been coached by Todd Reirden and currently Peter Laviolette.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Capitals were one of the final teams to be added in the NHL expansion that began in 1967, joining the league with the Kansas City Scouts in 1974.
Alex Ovechkin is undoubtedly the Capitals’ best player in franchise history and is closing in on the goal-scoring record set by Wayne Gretzky.
Despite being one of the best teams of the Salary Cap era, the Capitals have only managed to win the cup once in 2018. Washington also made the finals in 1998 but were swept by the Detroit Red Wings.
Ovechkin joined the team as the 1st overall pick in the 2004 draft.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are, without a doubt, the Capitals’ biggest rivals. Washington and Pittsburgh have met the 2nd most times out of any non-original six teams in the playoffs at 11 matchups, just behind the Blues and the Stars.