2018-19 NHL preview: Three storylines to follow this season

Lord Stanley went on quite an adventure with the Capitals this offseason, and upholding his honor won’t come easy.

Hockey returns Wednesday as the defending champion Caps prepare to raise their banner and open the regular season against the Bruins.

But could Washington’s numerous keg stands lead the team to experience a Stanley Cup hangover? The departure of coach Barry Trotz has also left many questioning the consistency of the Capitals heading into the season.

Meanwhile, competition is building not only around Washington in the Eastern Conference, but in the Western Conference as well, with some of the biggest threats coming out of the Atlantic and Pacific divisions.

Here are three storylines to follow heading into the 2018 NHL season.

1. Will adding John Tavares make the Maple Leafs contenders?

The coveted free-agent center signed a seven-year contract worth $77 million with the Maple Leafs in July after spending the previous nine seasons with the Islanders and is set to join a solid squad of youngsters that includes Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly. Tavares, a five-time All-Star, is in a position that will allow him to build on his numbers after finishing with 37 goals and 47 assists last season. But is it enough to help Toronto to hoist the Cup for the 14th time but the first time since 1967?

2. Can Erik Karlsson take the Sharks to the next level?

The Sharks acquired the captain and defenseman in a trade with the Senators last month with the hope that Karlsson can help San Jose win its first Stanley Cup after coming so close in 2016. The five-time All-Star and two-time Norris Trophy winner posted nine goals and 53 assists last season and is expected to bolster the Sharks power play to an unstoppable level as he creates what will be one of the league’s most lethal duos alongside Brent Burns.

3. How will the Golden Knights top their historic inaugural season?

The Golden Knights burst onto the scene in their first season, winning the Pacific Division and steamrolling their way to the Stanley Cup Final before being bested by the Capitals, as Washington captured it’s first championship. But several offseason moves have the line looking a little different this year. The Golden Knights lost James Neal and David Perron but added Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty to fill the void, all but assuring a high-octane offense is poised for another high-scoring season.