Training camp looms on the near horizon. It may be a good thing to look at what the Caps need to work on. These are the five things they must improve upon in order to return the the playoffs and move farther. The Caps have their first real expectations that have to be met this year. It's a burden that this rebuild team has yet to encounter in over 5 years. Overall consistency will be key.
5. Veterans Must Play To Potential - While this is still a young team, the veterans have to pull their weight as well. While the veteran core had to deal with injuries last season (Nylander, Clark, Potheir), the Caps veteran core will have to produce their fair share to keep the team balanced through out the year. The Caps will still rely on their young guns for a large majority of the offense, they will still need the veteran leadership and consistency to help with any lulls through out the year.
4. Stop Lazy Penalties - Discipline will be key if the Capitals need to return to the playoffs. Not just because of the Tom Poti trip lead to the game winning goal in game seven, but overall last season, the Caps took bad penalties late in close games. From Alex Semin's lazy stick fouls to Donald Brashear's blow up in the Bruins debacle, the focus has to be there for the entire team.
3. Faster Start - Probably the most obvious improvement needed for the Capitals. They can't afford a slow start to the season. The Southeast Division will not be as weak as it was last season. But there has to be a balance it. Look at the Ottawa Senators as an example. The Senators got off to one of the best starts, but fell apart midway through the season. Consistency every night is the key to getting off to a good start and a strong finish.
2. Improve the Power Play - While it improved some toward the end of the year, the Capitals power play was a source of pain for them all season long (and can be argued a problem in the playoffs series with Philly). Plus, the Caps 5 on 3 was dismal last season. To me, it seems a bit slow and predictable. The passes need to be crisper and the play has to be set up much faster to get the penalty killers off kilter. With the talent they have in snipers and set up men, their numbers on the power play must improve.
1. Three words: Goaltending, Goaltending, Goaltending - It's like location but different. Jose Theodore has to prove he is a capable replacement for not just Cristobal Huet (who took his pads and stick to richer waters), but long time Cap Olie Kolzig too. Brent Johnson can't be a slouch either. For the Caps to make it to the post season Theodore as to at least match his performance with the Aves (which was 28 wins). But it would be better if the Caps can get 30+ wins out of him.
Another thing to mention would be the Caps have to get quicker starts in the game. When the Capitals led after the second period they had a .900 winning percentage. But they spent a lot of time in games playing catch up.