Are the caps contenders?
Watching the Caps - Flyers game last night, I couldn't help but stare in amazement at the Caps' display of offensive talent. Alex Ovechkin might score 70 this year; Alex Semin has the fastest hands in the NHL hands-down... And Nicklas Backstrom is already one of the best playmaker in the game.
So are the Caps contenders?
I'm not so sure.
The best defense is a good offense, they say. While it may be true in some cases, I don't think any team that lets in 3-4 goals a night has a chance to go deep in the playoffs. Washington has done virtually nothing this off-season to bolster their defensive squad, arguably their weakest point.
Arguably, because their goaltending isn't much better.
When Cristobal Huet was traded to the Capitals two years ago, I thought to myself: man, it's about time the Caps get a goaltender capable of stopping the puck once in a while. Olaf Kolzig had been horrible that season, and was pretty much the only reason the Caps weren't up there with the best teams in the East. We all know the rest, the Caps went on a tear with an amazing 18-1 record to finish the season and make the playoffs for the first time in years.
After a disappointing Game 7 loss to the Flyers, the Caps had the whole summer to re-sign Huet (who was set to become an unrestricted free agent), or to find a quality #1 goaltender to take them to the next level. It was the perfect occasion for the Caps' management to finally fix their goaltending woes.
Instead, management did the unthinkable.
George McPhee took a page out of Ken Holland's playbook and decided it would be unfair to the rest of the league to give a team this good a decent goaltender, so he went ahead and gave Jose Theodore a contract that rivaled the stupidity of Theodore's previous one, which had finally expired.
We all know what happened next: Theodore was shaky most of the year (big surprise) and collapsed in the first game against the Rangers, putting the Caps in an early hole they wouldn't have escaped from without Sergei Fedorov's late-game 7 magic. Semyon Varlamov was mostly solid in his NHL playoffs debut, but collapsed under pressure in the 6-2 game 7 loss to the Pens.
Varlamov might have immense potential, but right now he's still a rookie... He will need as much help from his defensemen as he can get.
And though we can't deny Mike Green's happy bunch is offensively gifted, they're not exactly what you would call defensively-sound.
Until the Caps do something about their defense, they won't go too far.