The Capitals retained all but two players from their Stanley Cup finals lineup and enter the 2018-19 season without the baggage of past playoff failures, but almost no one who makes a living writing about the NHL is picking Washington to repeat as champions.

Of course, the Stanley Cup champions aren’t complaining. Flying under the radar worked out just fine for the Capitals last season, and they’ll look to defy expectations and win a second consecutive title under their first-year head coach, Todd Reirden.

“I like it now,” Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan, who is a Stanley Cup champion, said with a smirk when asked about Washington’s relative long shot status during an interview with Post editors and reporters last week. “We accept the low expectations."

The Lightning, who return most of the team that paced the Eastern Conference in points last season but lost to the Stanley Cup champion Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, are generally considered Washington’s biggest threat in the Eastern Conference. The Maple Leafs, Penguins, Bruins and Blue Jackets are among the other popular picks to dethrone the champs.

Here’s a look at what the experts are saying about the Capitals ahead of Wednesday’s season opener, during which the team will raise its Stanley Cup champions banner.

NHL.com

None of NHL.com’s 18 experts pick the Capitals to win the East, let alone repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Only five experts predict Washington will win the Metropolitan Division.

ESPN

The Capitals open the season fifth in ESPN’s power rankings, behind the Jets, Lightning, Maple Leafs and Predators.

The Hockey News

THN sees a second-place finish in the Metropolitan Division in the Capitals' future. “Washington’s lineup is deep and dangerous. If [Braden] Holtby plays as he can, Washington will start their title defense with home-ice advantage.”

Sportsnet

Columbus got a vote, but none of Sportsnet’s 16 experts predict the Capitals will win the Eastern Conference. Kristina Rutherford pegs the Capitals as the team “most likely to disappoint.”

The Athletic

A panel of 47 writers, editors and experts participated in the Athletic’s preseason predictions bonanza (subscription required). Among the Capitals-related highlights: Holtby and his former backup, Philipp Grubauer, each receive one vote for “disappointing player”; Jakub Vrana receives two votes for “breakout player”; and Washington receives two votes for “disappointing team.” No one predicts the Capitals will win the Stanley Cup, and only one respondent picks Washington to win the Eastern Conference. With 21 votes, the Tampa Bay Lightning are the most popular pick to win the title, followed by the Jets (9), Sharks (7), Predators (5) and Penguins (2).

TSN

Frank Seravalli, who made a bold prediction for every team, sees a big season ahead for Evgeny Kuznetsov. Seravalli wouldn’t be surprised if Kuznetsov becomes the fifth 100-point scorer in franchise history, joining Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Gartner, Dennis Maruk and Alex Ovechkin.

USA Today

Kevin Allen projects the Capitals to win the Metropolitan Division and finish third in the Eastern Conference with 107 points. Allen also picks Holtby to win the Vezina Trophy. Three of USA Today’s four experts predict Washington will win the division, but none of them has the Capitals representing the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup finals.

Sports Illustrated

The Capitals open the season seventh in SI’s power rankings.

Pro Hockey Talk

Adam Gretz picks Ovechkin to win the Hart Trophy as the MVP, while he and colleague Sean Leahy expect Ovechkin to lead the league in goals. The Capitals open the season fourth in PHT’s power rankings.

The Hockey Writers

Larry Fisher predicts Washington will win the Metropolitan Division and lose to the Penguins in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Sporting News

The Sporting News' three experts project Washington to finish second in the Metropolitan Division behind the Penguins.

Yahoo Canada

Justin Cuthbert sees the Capitals qualifying for the playoffs on the final day of the regular season.

Russian Machine Never Breaks

Peter Hassett offers four reasons the Capitals will once again be a 100-point team.

The Washington Post

Neil Greenberg projects the Capitals to finish with 97 points and tie for third in the Metropolitan Division.

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