The Capitals are making a major investment in their own team this offseason, signing two of their own stars to new contracts: forward Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman Jake Dotchin.
Both players will make an impact on the team’s first NHL game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night.
Here are some of the things you need to know about the two players, who are both in their prime, and what you can expect when they take the ice against the Blackhawks on the road in New York on Saturday.
They’re two of the NHL’s best defensemen, but they’re not your typical defenseman.
In fact, they’re so good, they’ve already been compared to some of hockey’s best defenders.
Backstrom, 26, led the league in blocked shots last season with 2,749, and ranked second in blocked goals with 47.
He also led the NHL in scoring with 42 points (eight goals, 18 assists) in 57 games.
Dotchin, 26 and second on the Capitals in scoring, also led them in blocked shot percentage with 59.5, and tied for fourth in blocked goal percentage at 26.7 percent.
They also combined for a .920 save percentage last season, which ranked third in the NHL behind St. Louis’ Sergei Bobrovsky and Chicago’s Corey Crawford.
Both played well enough to earn NHL All-Star nods last season and have the potential to do the same again this season.
Their first-round draft pick is the perfect complement to their defense.
After making a strong push up the depth chart this season, Backstrom has been on a tear, scoring 27 goals and 32 assists in 81 games, and has been a key piece to the Capitals’ success.
He’s tied for the team lead in goals, and ranks second in assists.
Dotch, who played in the AHL for the majority of the season and has also started in all three games, is second on that list with 18 goals and 17 assists.
He has also been a vital part of the team on the power play.
The pair is also close in the offensive zone, having each added eight points (three goals, five assists) on the year.
Their defense has been the best of their careers, but the forwards have been better.
The Capitals have been among the league leaders in goals against per game, at 2.71, while the forwards are tied for fifth with 1.98 goals against.
They’ve combined for six of the Capitals top 10 scoring categories, including a career-high eight goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and have been an integral part of their success.
Their goals against average is a league-high 2.27, which ranks sixth in the league.
And they rank second in the League in even strength points allowed at 4.06 per game.
That’s also a career high, which is the highest mark among the top 10.
They can help make up for their lack of scoring.
While both players are expected to have a strong offensive season, they won’t be the only ones contributing offensively.
The Caps are expected the best offensive production from the forward group, which includes center Nicklas Peters, defenseman Nicklas Grossmann, goalie Braden Holtby and forward Braden Backstrom.
They’ll also be expected to make up some of that offense on the back end.
Dotches offensive production has been impressive this season as well, as he leads the NHL with 31 goals and has a team-leading plus-24 rating.
They could be the difference between making the playoffs or not.
The Washington Capitals are one of only two teams in the top 20 in the Eastern Conference, but have lost just twice all season, including the last two.
If their offense continues to produce, they could easily be a playoff team this season even if they’re only a half-game back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wild card spot.
They just need to do that against the Pittsburgh Panthers, who they’re tied for third in scoring and have won just once this season in Pittsburgh.
The Blackhawks are one playoff team in the East, but it’s not their first time facing them.
Back in 2014, the Capitals faced the Blackhawks twice in six games.
They were the only team in hockey history to play a game against Chicago in the playoffs.
The first meeting was a 3-2 loss that had the Capitals trailing the Blackhawks 5-4.
The second was a 5-3 win in overtime that was tied at 3.
This year, the Blackhawks are coming off a 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers that sent them to the conference final.
This game could decide whether the Capitals can make the postseason, or if they will be the last team to miss the playoffs in franchise history.
The two Capitals are two of only three teams in hockey’s elite defensive corps, but that’s not a great indication of how good the rest of the pack is. The