The Capitals and Penguins have met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs just once since Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby entered the NHL in 2005. According to The Hockey News, that could change this spring.
While many analysts will be making their preseason predictions in the weeks ahead, The Hockey News has already released its 2014-15 Yearbook and one of the most respected publications in the game is predicting a return to the postseason for the Capitals and a potential first round series against the Penguins.
The ‘Bible of Hockey’ has the Capitals finishing in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division behind the playoff-bound Penguins, Blue Jackets and Rangers. Finishing below the Capitals in the Metro, and on the outside of a playoff position, are the Flyers, Islanders, Devils and Hurricanes.
For what it’s worth, all preseason predictions should be taken with a grain of salt. Consider that just three years ago, THN picked the Capitals to win the 2011-12 Stanley Cup. Instead, the Capitals fired head coach Bruce Boudreau 22 games into the season and scrambled at year’s end just to secure the 7-seed in the Eastern Conference.
In addition to playoff appearances from the Penguins, Blue Jackets, Rangers and Capitals in the Metropolitan Division, THN is also predicting Eastern Conference playoff berths for the Bruins, Lightning, Canadiens and Panthers from the Atlantic Division. According to THN's predictions, the Detroit Red Wings (picked fifth in the Atlantic Division, but on the outside of a wild card position) would miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 25 years.
THN is picking the Chicago Blackhawks to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals, in what THN Editor in Chief Jason Kay described as "a decision that came shockingly easy" compared to previous seasons.
The yearbook also includes THN's annual list of the NHL's Top-50 players, with Crosby coming in at No.1 for the second time in as many years. Ovechkin comes in at No.16- a considerable drop from a year ago when THN ranked him at No.2. The publication explains that "his defensive deficiencies pushed him down the list." Nicklas Backstrom also cracked the Top-50 (after somehow being omitted a year ago), coming in at No.31 overall (No.11 among centers).
THN’s thorough Yearbook also lists Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov among ten hopefuls for the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year.