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Know Your Neighbor: The Washington Capitals are aging, but still dangerous

The Caps added depth and have the same veteran core.

Boston Bruins v Washington Capitals Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

Editor’s note: With the Bruins having some new divisional opponents this season, we’re going to try to take a look at each team in preview fashion so you know what to expect.

Just the Facts

Last season’s finish: 41-20-8 for 90 points, 3rd in Eastern Conference, 1st in Metropolitan Division, lost to New York Islanders in the first round of the playoffs.

Record against the Bruins: 2-1-0. Two of the games were Caps’ wins by one goal. In the last meeting of the season between the two in December 2019, the Bruins won 7-3.

Off Season Moves

New head coach: The Capitals tapped former Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette to take over the reins this season, replacing Todd Reirden, who got the boot after the team’s 2019-20 first-round playoff exit.

Laviolette has 18 years coaching experience at the NHL level (and is from Massachusetts, just in case you’ve never watched an NBC Sports Network broadcast).

Draft picks: The Caps selected forward Hendrix Lapierre as the 22nd overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. In total, they chose four forwards (Lapierre, Bogdan Trineyev, Bear Hughes, and Oskar Magnusson) and goaltender Garin Bjorklund. In October, the team signed Lapierre, their first-round pick, to a three-year, entry-level deal.

Acquisitions: Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist signed a one-year deal in October as the Caps parted ways with backbone (and Bruins killer) Braden Holtby on the same day.

But in December, Lundqvist announced he would seek treatment for a heart condition and wouldn’t play this season. Just before Christmas, the team signed former Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson to a PTO, and he’ll compete for the backup position this season.

The Capitals were busy with free agency this year as well, adding depth to their blue line with defensemen Justin Schultz (formerly of the Pittsburgh Penguins), Trevor van Riemsdyk (Carolina Hurricanes), and Paul LaDue (LA Kings).

Of course, we can’t forget Zdeno Chara, who a few days ago signed a one-year contract with the Caps. Washington also added former Buffalo Sabres forward Conor Sheary and re-signed defensemen Brenden Dillon and Jonas Siegenthaler and forwards Daniel Sprong and Brian Pinho.

What To Expect

There’s no denying the Caps are a skilled team. They have talent throughout their roster and will likely be a top contender for first place in the division.

Alex Ovechkin will always be one to watch out for, as he remains a scoring machine. He’s still a force on their power play.

Washington had seven players with 44 or more points last season. They are a seasoned, veteran team, with dependable guys like T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, and John Carlson making a solid core.

Carlson had 15 goals and a whopping 60 assists for 75 points during the 2019-20 season. Yes, as a defenseman.

While there’s no denying the Bruins caught a break by avoiding Tampa Bay in their new division, being mied in with the Capitals isn’t a great consolation prize.

Michal Kempny will probably be out for the whole season as he faces a 6-8 month recovery from surgery on an Achilles injury (he had the surgery in October).

One potential hiccup for the Caps will be that they’re playing without Holtby for the first time since 2010.

Holtby killed the Bruins over the years so they won’t be bad to see him leave, but Ilya Samsonov is no slouch himself.

He backed up Holtby last year with a record of 16-6-2 with one shutout in his first professional season. He had a 2.55 GAA and 0.913 save percentage. Youth is on his side, but with only one season under his belt, a lot will be riding on the 23 year old as he fills Holtby’s skates.

After crashing out of the playoffs in disappointing fashion last season, look for the Capitals to come back and prove they still have some gas in the tank.