Is this finally the year for the Caps?

Is this finally the year for the Caps?
October 1, 2013, 8:30 am
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Caps open season against defending champs

At the start of every NHL season, every team believes it will be the one raising the Stanley Cup in the third week of June.

Of course, only one of those teams will be right.

The Capitals enter this season having been to the playoffs six straight years. They are one of just two NHL teams [the Vancouver Canucks are the other] to have won five division titles in that time.

But the Caps’ regular season success has been a mirage come playoff time, where they have failed to get past the second round during the Alex Ovechkin era, now in its ninth season.

Tonight in Chicago [7 p.m. Caps Central, 8 p.m., NBCSN] the Caps will kick off their 2013-14 season against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.

What follows is a sampling of how the Caps responded when asked what they consider reasonable expectations for them entering this season, their second under head coach Adam Oates and their 38th attempt to win a Stanley Cup:

Mike Green: “We’ve been there every year. We’ve been a team that competes. Making it to the playoffs is hard. It’s not easy to do in this league. We’ve proven ourselves in that aspect, that we’re a good team. But we haven’t proven that we’re a great team and the only way to do that is by winning the Stanley Cup.”

Joel Ward: “Obviously, the goal is to finish at the top of the division. That’s what we want to do. We know it’s going to be tough, but I think the way we played down the stretch last year was pretty good.”

Karl Alzner: “If we can stay healthy, I don’t see any reason not for us to be in the top three or four in the conference. The playoffs is another story. We’re getting a little better every year. Same coach, same system. I think we’ve got a legitimate chance. We just need to keep our fingers crossed.”

Braden Holtby: “It will be a lot easier for the guys. Everyone knows the system and basically it’s the same team we had last year. It was almost a blessing in disguise that we had to battle through things last year with all the adversity we had. Knowing we can battle through that stuff makes us look forward to what we can do.”

Troy Brouwer: “The last couple years we’ve had a little bit of chaos in there as far as knowing where you fit in on the team and knowing what your role is. This year, with very limited spots on the team, everyone knows where they fall in and what’s expected of them. It’s still early to tell. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. I know this team has not been deep into the playoffs in quite a few years and that’s our goal, to win the Stanley Cup. But it starts way before that, with trying to win the division and put ourselves in good position.”

Brooks Laich: “When our season ended [last year] I think we realized the sky’s the limit for this group. A lot of people say it, but for this team I think we’re very, very close. We’ve still got a lot to learn and work to put in, but this is a very exciting team and I think we’re really close.”

George McPhee: “You come to camp every year hoping it’s the greatest year you’ll ever have. The objective is always to make the playoffs and put yourself in a position to have that great year, to compete for the Cup. We like our team. We have two young goaltenders with tremendous upside. It’s a veteran team now, but a young veteran team. They’re still on the front nine.”