By Ethan MacKrell
The best time of year is officially underway, ladies and gentlemen. The NHL season is back, and that means it’s time for some unreasonable opinions from me about the Washington Capitals. People may think the time for the Capitals to win their franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup is over after another second-round loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last season, but I’m here to tell you that this year may still be the Caps’ year.
Even though the Capitals losing in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs has become almost as regular as a thing as the NHL having an 82-game season, there are many reasons to believe the Caps’ year can stretch itself into 2018.
The first is Alexander Ovechkin. It may seem like a crazy take, and one that I’ll probably regret six months from now, but watch out for Ovi to return to his usual 50-goal self this season. Now, this isn’t a belief based on my sometime unrealistic expectations for the Caps, but concrete facts and evidence. First off, fellow teammate and Russian countrymen, Evgeny Kuznetsov, was quoted in a Russian interview claiming that Ovechkin will score 50 goals this season, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my life as a Capitals fan, it is to believe in Evgeny Kuznetsov.
The second, and by far the most important, reason to expect Ovechkin to reach 50 goals this season is because of an offseason equipment change. Ovechkin’s endorsement contract with the hockey equipment provider of Bauer ended this summer, and now Ovechkin has been seen rocking CCM hockey products all preseason. Now, for all the people who aren’t massive Alex Ovechkin nerds like myself, Ovi switching back to CCM may not seem like a big or relevant deal at all, but trust me, it is. CCM Ovi was the foundation of the 50-goal, 100-point rookie season, the hot stick celebration and the insane 65-goal season in 2008, and now he is back. This, combined with Kuznetsov’s prediction, is all the evidence I need to believe in Ovechkin, and I am more than ready to see him shock the league and silence all the Canadian hockey writers itching at the chance to claim that his goal scoring dominance is over.
Even though all the other actual hockey facts out there point at the Capitals being a much worse team than they’ve been the last two years, there’s still a lot of reasons to keep the faith. The main thing I’ve learned as a hockey fan is that if your team makes it into the playoffs, they have 100 percent legitimate chance at winning the whole thing. The Nashville Predators made it to the finals as an eighth seed last season, the Philadelphia Flyers did the same thing as a seventh seed in 2010 and the Los Angeles Kings were even able to capture their franchise’s first Stanley Cup as the eighth seed in 2012. Now if you ask me, I say why can’t the Caps have one of these magical runs this season? Ovechkin’s scoring 50, the Capitals are making it past the second round and it will finally be the Caps’ year in 2018. Book it.