This is it folks, the last Preseason Preview for the 2009-10 season. Thank you to those of you who took the time to check these out. I sincerely appreciate it.
Now, the Washington Capitals.
Team M.O.: These guys are young, skilled, and dangerous from just about every position. That's a stark contrast to the fact that they spend the better part of the decade as a team that was barely competitive. They made some smart draft decisions, they made some smart moves, and in the end, the team flourished again in Washington, possibly stronger than ever.
Last Season: They lost in the Conference Semifinals to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but considering that the Pens were the eventual Stanley Cup Champions that's not the worst thing in the world. They'll probably use that as motivation to be better because they hate the Pens almost as much as the Philadelphia Flyers do.
Offense: A line that features Nicklas Backstrom centering Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin is one that every coach wishes they could put on the ice. Brendan Morrison and Mike Knuble were brought in to provide veteran scoring presence and will likely be on a line with Brooks Laich. Tomas Fleischmann is starting to make noise worth giving him a look as a top-six winger while captain Chris Clark plays a solid, if not offensively-limited, two-way game. Disgruntled Michael Nylander may not be putting up the numbers expected of him, but can still do well to center a third unit. The fourth line will likely be composed of Matt Bradley, Eric Fehr, David Steckel, and Boyd Gordon, with the odd man out acting as a reserve. That leaves an open spot for an enforcer, which the team will need to protect their star talent.
Defense: The defense on this team is a primarily defensive unit housing an offensive-minded jewel. Mike Green took his game up another season, scoring 73 points in 68 games... as a defenseman! However, that wouldn't have been possible without the solid defensive play of guys like Milan Jurcina and Shaone Morrisonn. Injuries limited games for guys like Tom Poti and John Erskine, but they were each effective in their respective roles while in the lineup, so they'll need to remain healthy to take that next step forward. Injuries also kept Brian Pothier out for almost the length of the season, so he'll be hoping for a stronger return campaign as well. Jeff Schultz has earned the right to round out the defense out of camp, and the rest of their depth looks good for them.
Goaltending: Now, I can't even comment on Jose Theodore after hearing about the loss of his child. I just hope he and his family recover from that. I wouldn't be surprised if the team but him on the inactive list and brought a number three guy in so he can grieve. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family.
Simeon Varlamov proved to be a very effective goaltender in the post season and will definitely be in the position to start commanding starting time. The more he learns English, the more he'll improve. I know the team is hot on Michal Neuvirth, but he didn't fare as well in his NHL audition as he should have so the team should find a spare goaltender if Theodore isn't ready for the start of the season.
Expectations: I like them a great deal and think they'll be every bit as competitive as Boston, Philadelphia, or Pittsburgh. These guys are one of the top-caliber teams in the Eastern Conference and a few more slight additions would make them complete.