Are the Caps getting the Oates system?
In my last blog post, I talked about how the most worrying part of the Caps were the numerous lackluster efforts by many of the players, including captain Alex Ovechkin. I even noted an instance of that when the Caps played Tampa Bay way back on February 14th. Ovie sat in front of the Cap's net and watched Martin St. Louis put the puck into the net. He is not, by a long shot, the only Capital player I've seen loafing or standing around at inopportune moments during games since this season started.
Is that because the Caps weren't able to consistently perform Oates system? Were they thinking too hard and not acting by instinct? It's possible, given the lack of a training camp with their new coach.
Ovie has certainly turned it on and he had to learn to play RW on top of Oates system. Nine days after that game against Tampa, Ovie scored a hat trick against the New Jersey Devils. Today, he was named the NHL first star of the week with 5G and 8 points for a two point per game click in his last four games. And, he's now tied for 6th in goals in the league. Let's hope it continues.
Does it mean the rest of the team is getting there, too? Nicklas Backstrom seems to be playing better after an unusually slow start. Mike Ribeiro's play fit into Oates's system from the beginning. He leads the team in points and his PPG is 1.06, higher than his pace last year. The defense clicks much better when Mike Green and Dmitry Orlov are on the ice versus Jeff Schultz or Tom Poti. As a team, they're forechecking and backchecking and playing smarter hockey. It's helping them win games.
The Caps are now playing competitive hockey against Southeast Division teams, at least. It's impossible to say the same thing about how the play against the rest of the Eastern conference. In February and March, they've had 4 wins, 2 OT wins and 9 losses against those teams.
So what? While I'm happy the Caps are performing better and getting Oates's system down, I don't expect much out of this season. They don't have the player personnel they need for a deep run in the playoffs, assuming they make the playoffs.
Let's go Caps!