Washington Capitals Season Preview: Despite Alex Ovechkin, Uncertainty Abounds

Written By Dann Stupp on October 12, 2021 - Last Updated on July 31, 2023
Alex Ovechkin

Outside of star Alex Ovechkin, it seems like hockey fans, sportsbooks, and sports bettors aren’t sure what to make of this year’s Washington Capitals.

The 2021-2022 season kicks off on Tuesday with a pair of games as part of NHL Opening Night. However, the Capitals don’t kick off their campaign until Wednesday.

That’s when the Caps host the New York Rangers (7:30 p.m., TNT) at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC.

It’s the first of 82 regular-season games for Washington, the 2017-2018 Stanley Cup champions. And though the Capitals are a small favorite in that season opener, what about the rest of the year?

Can Alex Ovechkin lead Caps to Stanley Cup?

The current NHL betting odds suggest that the Washington Capitals are a mid-tier team with a decent shot of making the playoffs.

At two Virginia online sportsbooks, DraftKings VA and BetRivers VA, the Caps are +3000 to win the 2021-2022 Stanley Cup.

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In other words, for every $10 you bet, you’d net $300 in profit if the Caps raise another Stanley Cup banner.

Those 30-1 odds preseason odds are much longer than in years past, when the Capitals were regularly among the early Stanley Cup favorites. Here are their preseason Stanley Cup odds for the past five years:

  • 2020-2021: +2200
  • 2019-2020: +1400
  • 2018-2019: +1400
  • 2017-2018: +1125
  • 2016-2017: +915

Unlike those past seasons, though, the Caps enter this season with a lot of unanswered questions.

Namely, can a roster chockfull of players who are 30 or older stay healthy for an entire season?

But also, can the goaltending tandem of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek improve on last season’s subpar year?

Also, can Evgeny Kuznetsov return to his former effectiveness?

There’s no doubt that Washington will score this season. Their offense is simply too deep not to.

After all, there’s always team captain Alex Ovechkin. “Ovi,” the nine-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner as the league’s leading scorer, will be the centerpiece of talks about the Capitals’ chances this year.

Other NHL futures bets for Washington

As for other NHL futures for the Caps, there are options.

Virginia sports betting enthusiasts can bet on them to win the competitive Metropolitan Division (+600 at DraftKings) or the Eastern Conference (+1500 at DraftKings). Like the Stanley Cup odds, those are mid-tier prices for a team that oddsmakers and bettors just aren’t sure about this season.

However, at the end of the day, Washington is still considered likely to make the postseason, as is evident from other Capitals futures markets.

That optimism is likely due to Caps’ offense, including T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, and Tom Wilson, among others.

Here are some of those futures betting options, where the Capitals have an implied 57% chance (-134) of making the playoffs this season:

  • Capitals to make the playoffs (BetRivers): Yes (-134) or No (+108)
  • Washington’s regular-season total points (BetRivers): Over 94.5 (-112) or under 94.5 (-112)
  • Capitals to win President’s Trophy/team with most points (BetRivers): +4000

Will Alex Ovechkin eclipse Wayne Gretzky?

Regardless of the Capitals’ 2021-2022 fortunes, the team will be getting some season-long shine because of Alex Ovechkin.

The 36-year-old Russian and fan-favorite enters the 2021-2022 season with 730 career NHL goals. Here’s where he ranks among the all-time NHL scoring leaders, including the GOAT, Wayne Gretzky:

  1. Wayne Gretzky: 894
  2. Gordie Howe: 801
  3. Jaromír Jágr: 766
  4. Brett Hull: 741
  5. Marcel Dionne: 731
  6. Alex Ovechkin: 730

Ovechkin averages about 46 goals per season, so he’s likely three or four seasons away from possibly catching Gretzky. But he could easily jump into third-place all-time on the NHL career goals list even with a below-average season this year.

Additionally, Ovechkin has massive star power throughout the league. He’s led the league in goals scored in nine different seasons, and he ranks No. 1 among current players. And even though Gretzky is still 164 goals ahead, each Ovechkin goal this year will be a reason for celebration.

Additionally, if you place a wager in another special NHL futures market, there will be additional reasons to celebrate.

At DraftKings, you have this option:

  • Top Regular Season Goal Scorer: Alex Ovechkin +1200

And at BetRivers, you have this option:

  • Number of goals scored by Alex Ovechkin excluding playoffs: Over 41.5 (-112) or under 41.5 (-112)
  • Number of Alex Ovechkin’s player points (goals + assists) excluding playoffs: Over 72.5 (+100) or under 72.5 (-125)

BetRivers also has a head-to-head matchup you can bet on:

  • To score most goals in 2021-2022 regular season: Alex Ovechkin (-112) or David Pastrnak (-112)

Caps favored in 2021-2022 season opener

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Capitals were favored (-129) over the Rangers (+110) in Wednesday’s season opener, according to BetRivers.

Additionally, the puckline featured:

  • Rangers +1.5: -275
  • Capitals -1.5: +200

The total for the game was 6, with the under at +100 and the over at -120.

At BetRivers, you can also bet on the result being a tie at the end of regulation. It pays +315.

Photo by AP / Nick Wass
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Dann Stupp

Dann Stupp is a longtime sports journalist who’s written and edited for The Athletic, USA Today, ESPN, MLB.com and other outlets. He lives in Lexington, Virginia.

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