Here Come the Capitals … Better Get Those Futures Bets Down

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, December 21, 2017 4:44 PM UTC

Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017 4:44 PM UTC

The Washington Capitals got off to a slow start this season, but they have retaken their usual place among the NHL elite. Don’t expect a drop-off anytime soon.

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The NHL has handed out the Presidents’ Trophy to the team with the most regular-season points since 1985-86. You can ask the Washington Capitals whether that Trophy means much of anything. I guarantee you the answer would be no.

Just eight of the Presidents' Trophy-winning teams have gone on to win the Stanley Cup, with only four others reaching the Finals and losing. The last Presidents’ Trophy winner to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup was the Chicago Blackhawks in 2012-13. Meanwhile, only three times in the history of the Presidents' Trophy has a team missed the playoffs the season after winning the award. The last to do that was the Boston Bruins, who won the Trophy in the 2013-14 season missed the playoffs the next.

This all brings me to the Capitals. They led the NHL with 120 points in 2015-16 and 118 last year. How did both seasons end? With a loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Penguins in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The series went six games in 2016 and Washington was beaten at home in Game 7 this past May, 2-0.

Washington lost some quality players in free agency this past offseason due to the salary cap and started with a middling 11-10-1 record. But something has clicked as the Caps haven’t lost back-to-back games since to take their usual spot atop the Metropolitan Division – they’ve finished first in their division seven times out of the past 10.

Now might be the time to put down some NHL futures money on this team considering the Capitals are still +1600 longer shots at Bovada to win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history and +800 to win a conference title for only the second time (1997-98 Caps were swept in Cup Finals by Detroit).

Alex Ovechkin is having a big-time bounce-back season and is among the NHL betting favorites to win a fourth Hart Trophy. After scoring at least 50 goals in three straight seasons, Ovi put only 33 in the net last year, his second-fewest in a non-lockout-shortened season. Ovechkin could surpass that 33 number by the All-Star break as he battles Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov for the NHL goal-scoring lead. Tom Wilson is close to exceeding the 19 points he put up in 82 games in 2016-17. Brett Connolly and Alex Chaisson are also scoring at better rates.

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Can you do this? #CapsAvs #ALLCAPS #HoltbyThings pic.twitter.com/ZuqjccRrB3

— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) December 12, 2017
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The Caps lost top-six forwards Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams in free agency and they were counting on 22-year-old winger Andre Burakovsky to help fill the void. Alas, the Swede went the first seven games of the season without a goal and broke his thumb in the ninth game. He has picked it up since returning from injury on Dec. 8 by already doubling his points output this month from what he had in October. Former Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby has also raised his game. As of this writing, Holtby hasn’t allowed more than three goals in any December game.

Things might only get better for the Caps as T.J. Oshie, a power-play monster, recently returned after missing six games with a concussion. Washington was the healthiest team in the NHL last season, but had lost 67 man-games to injury this year. The team has had its full-strength lineup for less than 10 games, but it’s intact now.

Washington has yet to lose at home this month, and starting Dec. 28 vs. Boston the schedule is very home-friendly with eight of 12 in D.C.

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