Looking ahead for the Capitals: How to improve their shot at a repeat

Devante Smith-Pelly scored the game-tying goal in the Capitals' Stanley Cup-clinching win in Game 5. AP Photo/John Locher

As each NHL team is eliminated from playoff contention -- either mathematically, losing in the postseason or winning the Stanley Cup -- we'll take a look at three keys to its offseason and a way-too-early prediction for what 2018-19 will hold.

What went right

This was the year where there were no expectations for the Washington Capitals.

No Presidents' Trophy as a burden. No hoopla entering the playoffs. Even GM Brian MacLellan tempered the mood, telling reporters last offseason that the Caps were wading through "the same kind of hangover" champions endure -- without actually winning a championship.

So of course this was the year that the Caps finally got over the hump. Perhaps it would have been a success just to oust the Pittsburgh Penguins from the playoffs. But Alex Ovechkin, in his 13th season, finally made it all the way. The Capitals, at long last, are Stanley Cup champions.