Last Word on Hockey brings you our team of the decade series. We will dive into the best player at each position this decade for every organization. The biggest and the best at each position, with the most memorable moments in franchise history. Here is the Washington Capitals decade lineup.
Washington Capitals Decade Team
In the early part of the 2010s, the Washington Capitals were a team that could not win the big one. They had all the talent in the world, won Presidents’ Trophy after Presidents’ Trophy, but they did not translate to Stanley Cup Playoff victories. Year after year, the Capitals fell in the first round or second round. Most of the time if the Capitals made it to the second round, they feel to their arch-rival the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, all of that changed in 2018.
With Barry Trotz at the helm, the Capitals adjusted their style of play and bought into the system. This led to success as the Capitals got past their demons in the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Washington carried that momentum into the Eastern Conference Finals knocking off the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games. After dropping game one to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Capitals rattled off the next four games to capture the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. After winning the cup, the party never stopped for the Capitals and their fans.
Even if the Capitals did not win the Stanley Cup, the decade would have been a success, but the addition of a Stanley Cup Championship makes it even better. Especially for a team that could not win the big one with a talented roster. Let us take a look at the members that make the Washington Capitals decade team.
Left-Wing: Alex Ovechkin (2005 – Present)
To begin, let us start with one of the best players in the NHL, on one of the best teams in the NHL. The captain of the Washington Capitals Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin has been the face of the Capitals since bursting into the league. He will go down as the best pure goal scorer in NHL history. Even if he does not pass Wayne Gretzky‘s goals record. He is a Stanley Cup champion and a Conn Smythe winner. He put the Capitals on his back in 2018. Ovechkin scored 435 goals along with 341 assists for 776 points in this past decade. He also his third Hart Trophy as league MVP in 2013. Also, he won the Ted Lindsay Award in 2010 as the players’ choice for the MOP along with the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal scorer six times.
Centre: Nicklas Backstrom (2007 – Present)
Another easy choice is Ovechkin’s running mate Nicklas Backstrom. During this past decade, Backstrom led all NHL players with 509 assists. Also, Backstrom recorded 170 goals in the decade for a total of 697 points. He is one of the more durable, reliable players in the league. Not to mention he was always been the near the top of the league in assists. During the 2014-15 season, Backstrom led the NHL with 60 assists. Just like Ovechkin, Backstrom will be a Capital for life and is carving out his Hall-of-Fame career. He has always been the Robin to Ovechkin’s Batman.
Right Wing: T.J. Oshie (2015 – Present)
There were so many players to choose from at this position. However, ever since T.J. Oshie arrived in Washington, he has been a mainstay on the top two lines for the Capitals. Regardless if he played with Backstrom or Evgeny Kuznetsov, since his arrival in Washington, he has made the Capitals go from a good team to a great team. Oshie was acquired in the summer of 2015 and his 116 goals rank third in the decade despite only being in Washington for four and a half seasons. He is a solid two-way player and was the missing piece for the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup in 2018. Not to mention he is a shootout machine.
Left Defenceman: Dmitry Orlov (2011 – Present)
This was a tough decision. There were a lot of options here but ultimately Dmitry Orlov got the nod. Orlov is one of the more overlooked defencemen on the Capitals roster. He has been with the Capitals since the 2011-12 season. Not only that but Orlov has been a mainstay on the left side for the past five years and counting. After breaking his wrist during the 2014 IIHF World Championships that cost him the entire 2014-15 season, he has not missed a game since. While he has never reached his offensive potential because of limited power-play time, he has 29 points or more four seasons in a row. During the team’s run to the Stanley Cup, Orlov scored 10 goals. He is a steady defenceman, the kind of player a team wins with.
Right Defenceman: John Carlson (2010 – Present)
Another easy selection for the Capitals decade team is John Carlson. Since arriving in Washington, no one has played more games than Carlson in the decade expect for Ovechkin. When he arrived, Carlson was nothing more than a second pair defenceman and turned into a true number one defenceman. He does everything for the Capitals from killing penalties to running the powerplay. Carlson was the odds on favourite to win the Norris Trophy this year as the NHL best defenceman if the season did not get suspended. After his heroics at the 2010 World Junior Championships for Team USA, Carlson came to Washington. Since then he ranks fifth franchise goals by a defenceman with 103, second in assists (347) and points (450).
Goaltender: Braden Holtby (2012 – Present)
Another easy selection for the Washington Capitals decade team. Braden Holtby was a fourth-round pick that led the Capitals to the Stanley Cup. From the minute he stepped on the ice during the 2012 first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Boston Bruins. He made it look so easy as he went on to win eight playoff series victories. There are not many goalies in the NHL today that can say that. And who can forget Holtby’s incredible save in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, that was a series-defining “Wrestlemania” moment. Holtby is tied with Olaf Kolzig for career shutouts with 35 in Capitals franchise history. In 448 games he has a 2.53 goals-against average and .916 save percentage. There are not too many goalies who win 48 games in a season. He did that in 2015-16. Not only that he is a Vezina Trophy winner. One of the best to play for Washington.
in theory, there could be two Washington Capitals decade teams with their honourable mentions alone. At centre, you have Evgeny Kuznetsov. If it was not for Kuznetsov’s overtime goal against the Penguins in the second round in 2018, the Capitals might not have won the Stanley Cup. After being drafted in 2010, Kuznetsov came over for the 2013-14 season. In 450 games, he has 113 goals to go along with his 257 assists. Great playoff performer, clutch goal scorer.
At right-wing you have Tom Wilson. Maybe a little controversial for what he has been suspended for on numerous occasions, but the kind of player you win with. He brings a physical style that sets the tone for the Capitals and how they play. In their run to the Cup, the Capitals physical play led to their success.
At left-wing you have Marcus Johansson. There is a case for Alexander Semin too, but Johansson gets the nod. Excelled at moving the puck into the offensive zone and was a solid power-play guy. He was fifth in the decade in goals with 102 and points with 290.
On defence, you go with Mike Green and Brooks Orpik. Green was a staple on those early decade Capitals teams. However, injuries took a toll on this highly skilled offensive player. Green had 178 points (52 goals and 126 assists) in the decade for Washington. Orpik changed the culture in Washington bringing in his winning mentality from Pittsburgh over. Orpik was never one of those high offensive guys as he was brought in for leadership and stability on the left side.
At the goalie position, you go with Philipp Grubauer. Could have gone with Michal Neuvirth here, but Grubauer was a better backup. He stabilized the Capitals before their un 2018. In 101 appearances, 79 being starts, he has a .923 save percentage.
Embed from Getty Images