Welcome to the midway point of the 2021-2022 NHL season. NHL franchises from coast-to-coast are now refocusing, retooling, and rethinking what they need to do to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the Washington Capitals, this season has proven to be a significant test for both their older, star-studded core and their prospect pool. Our Washington Capitals midseason assessment shows some highlights (and low-lights) for the team and how they are poised to start the second half. To start, check out these midseason honorees who have rocked the red in the District this year:
Washington Capitals Midseason Assessment and Awards
Midseason MVP: Alex Ovechkin
Who else would it be? Ovechkin is on pace to flirt with a 60-goal season and showing no sign of slowing down. Ovechkin is a 36-year old veteran playing in what appears to be a 30-year old’s body. Even though he’s not throwing around as many hits as he used to, Capitals fans do not seem to mind.
Midseason MVYG (Most Valuable Young Gun): Martin Fehervary
The 22-year old Slovakian has enjoyed great success on the Capitals’ top defensive pairing this season. Fehervary’s consistent play has added substantial insurance, especially after the Capitals lost Brenden Dillon this past offseason. Look for Fehervary to continue making an impact for the Capitals down the stretch.
Most Influential Offseason Acquisition: Vitek Vanecek
This one feels a bit like cheating, but the Capitals did nothing significant this offseason other than Dillon’s departure. Vanecek had a stellar rookie year this past season and was rewarded by being selected by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft. Thankfully, the Capitals traded to get him back, and Vanecek has continued to be a reliable option in the Capitals’ crease.
Most Improved Player: Conor Sheary
Like Fehervary, Sheary has benefited greatly from injury woes in Washington. Sheary has enjoyed first-line minutes this season and is on pace to blow past his offensive numbers from last year. For a guy on a $1,250,000 deal, Sheary is exceeding everyone’s expectations.
Player Needing to Improve in The Second Half: Carl Hagelin
Hagelin has not enjoyed much success this season, especially offensively, but he has the potential to be a difference-maker in the second half. Despite being a defensive-minded forward by nature, Hagelin’s dismal offensive production has contributed to him continuing to occupy a Bottom 6 role. Given Washington’s injury woes this year, there was hope for Hagelin to step up and contribute. Despite that not happening, Hagelin could turn it around with more offensive pieces around him.
Overall Washington Capitals Midseason Assessment: Playoff Lock, Stanley Cup Contender
The Capitals currently sit in 4th place in what is a diabolically difficult Metropolitan division. This puts them in a wild card spot, but it is very secure. The Capitals are 13-points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings – the team on the outside looking in at the two wild card spots. Given how unhealthy the Capitals have been this season, the fact that they are this secure in the standings is remarkable.
At the start of the season, Capitals fans were dreaming of this incredibly talented second-line: Anthony Mantha – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie. Despite being 43-games into the season, however, those three players have yet to all be active for a single game. This team has also been devastated by COVID-19 throughout the first half of the season, providing opportunities for young players to shine on one of the oldest teams in the league on average.
Look for a healthier Capitals team to continue to impress in the second half of this season. The incoming influx of fresh veteran talent combined with a young group that is confident in their ability to play in the NHL should prove well for this experienced squad.