Why the Capitals are favorites
For the first time in his career, Alex Ovechkin enters the playoffs with a Stanley Cup to his name, but there’s no doubt he will be looking to add a second title sooner than later. He’s coming off yet another 50-goal, Maurice Richard Trophy-winning campaign, so the 33-year-old hasn’t slowed down one bit. Most of the cast from last year’s team is still in place, with the notable exception of coach Barry Trotz. Braden Holtby is coming off another subpar regular season by his standard, but he’s shown throughout his career he has another gear in the playoffs. His save percentage has only dipped once under .922 in the postseason. With heaps of playoff experience all throughout the lineup, the Capitals are once again a threat to go all the way this year.
Why the Hurricanes Could Pull Off the Upset
The Hurricanes might be a wild card team, but since they added Nino Niederreiter to their lineup on January 18, they’ve posted the third-best record in the NHL. Carolina has been one of the best teams in the NHL at generating quality shots all year, but their finishing ability is what turned their season around
Their ability to get to the slot is always a plus, but against Washington, it will be the key to pull off the upset. The Caps are a middle of the pack team when it comes to limiting scoring chances, but protecting the inner slot is another story. They’re a bottom-five team at limiting point-blank shots, while the Hurricanes are top 5 at generating them. Granted, the Caps tightened up their defense in a big way during last year’s cup run, but there’s no guarantee they can do it again, especially with Barry Trotz showing off his defensive system for the Islanders this year. If the Capitals don’t tighten up and Holtby is not in playoff form, there is a clear path for an upset.