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For the first time since 2008, both the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards are both in the playoffs! While neither team is a heavy favorite to win it all, both are ranked at very respectable seeds and have a legitimate chance of making noise this postseason. With big names such as Alexander Ovechkin, Braden Holtby, John Wall and Paul Pierce on each roster, both teams have amazingly talented players with plenty of playoff experience and success. Still, there is some pretty big competition that both our local teams must fight their way through. I’m here to give you a quick overview of each team’s regular season and discuss the opponents they will have to battle to advance in the playoffs. Now, let’s all wear red, navy blue and white (it’s pretty convenient they both wear the same colors, isn’t it?) in support of our local playoff teams these next couple of weeks!
Regular season record: 45-26-1 (4th Seed)
Playoff opponent: New York Islanders (5th Seed)
The Capitals ended a very successful season as the 4th Seed in the Eastern Conference with 101 points. Outstanding play by Captain Alexander Ovechkin and his league-leading 53 goals (the 6th time he’s eclipsed 50 goals in his 10 NHL seasons), along with Center Nicklas Backstrom’s team-high 60 assists have been the forefront of the Capitals’ offense. Goalie Braden Holtby has come to his own this season, earning 41 wins, which almost doubles his previous season best and ranks him second in the league for wins. After failing to reach the playoffs last season, the Capitals canned both their head coach and general manager. Long-time Nashville Predators Coach Barry Trotz was brought on by the Capitals after being let go by his former team, and his presence has clearly made a difference, being that the team’s offense is much better than what the team brought to the table last year. The offense also ranks 1st in the league in Power Play Percentage at 25 percent, which means they are a scary team when they have a man advantage. The team had to work out some kinks in the first half of the season, going only two games over .500 in that span, but earned 21 wins out of 36 games in the later half. They won six of their last 10 games, giving the team good confidence going into the postseason.
At the time of this article being published, the Capitals will be one game into their series against the 5th seeded New York Islanders. In the regular season, each team won both of their home games against each other, so this series is as close to a coin flip as it gets. The Capitals are known as a big and physical team, while the Islanders are one of the speediest teams in the league. The Islanders’ offense has clicked this year thanks to great play by their centers, with John Tavares earning the most points of his career this season at 86. The Islanders also have a solid defense, but if the Capitals manage to fight through it, they will have a good chance of winning. New York’s goalie Jaroslav Halak was in the top five this league for wins, but had one of the league’s worst save percentages for starters at .914, showing that he was supported mostly by a high-powered offense. If the Capitals best the Islanders in this series, which is very possible, the real test will be further down the line against the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens; two teams with outstanding players all around, especially at the goalie position.
Stay tuned to read my preview of the Washington Wizards’ outlook this postseason!
Regular season record: 46-36 (5th Seed)
Playoff opponent: Toronto Raptors (4th Seed)
The Wizards impressed early on with a 19-6 record two months into the season, but the team played poorly in February and March to end the season with a worse record than most fans had hoped. Still their record is nothing to complain about, and the team was one of the best in the league defensively, holding opponents to 97.8 points per game (tied with the Chicago Bulls for 9th in the league in that category). The strong defense is led by center Marcin Gortat and his team-high 8.7 rebounds per game. Point guard John Wall is the leader of the offense, scoring a team-high 17.6 points per game and 10 assists per game, while also having a pretty good defensive skillset. And although small forward Paul Pierce is past his prime at 37 years old, he still has the talent to make clutch shots and provides great veteran leadership. Head Coach Randy Wittman led the team to the playoffs last year for the first time since 2008, where they upset the Chicago Bulls, winning four games to one. However, the team ran into a defensively-strong Indiana Pacers in the second round, and lost the next series in six games. The Wizards earned an even better record this season (even if only by two games), and look to hop on the upset train once again.
Yet to perform such a feat, the team has to overcome one of the strongest offensive teams in the league. The 4th Seeded Toronto Raptors tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder (how the heck did they not get in the playoffs!?) this regular season with 104 points per game, leaving both teams with the fourth best offense in the league. Shooting guard DeMar DeRozan ignites the offense with his team-high 20.1 points per game, and point guard Kyle Lowry is right behind him with his second-best 17.8 points per game, while also leading the team with 6.8 assists per game. Despite their strong offensive abilities, the Raptors rank among the bottom-half of the league in the major defensive categories.
With their seven-game series beginning this Saturday, the Wizards need to play strong defense to pull out a win in this series, but have a good chance of winning if they accomplish that goal. Similar to the Capitals, the Wizards have a great opportunity to do something great this postseason with not much strong competition in the Eastern Conference. If they do go far, they will likely face the Atlanta Hawks or Cleveland Cavaliers, who both have elite talent on both sides of the court.