Can Caps build from Devils pep talk?

Can Caps build from Devils pep talk?
February 25, 2013, 7:30 am
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Ovechkin, Capitals dominant in win over Devils

Having played each other three times in the first 17 games of this truncated season, the Capitals and Devils will go their separate ways for the remainder of their NHL schedules.

But before they did, there were plenty of words of encouragement handed down from last year’s Stanley Cup finalists.

Before the Caps’ 5-1 win over the Devils, New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello was seen chatting with Caps general manager George McPhee. Afterward, Lamoriello caught up with Adam Oates’ wife, Donna, at one end of the VerizonCenter hallway, while Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk shared a few laughs at the other.

And before the two-game series between the teams began, Oates and Devils coach Peter DeBoer talked about the Caps’ 5-9-1 start.

“We went through the exact same thing last year,” DeBoer said. “The only benefit we had was time and practice days, which you don’t have the luxury of having this season. And from the outside looking in this team misses a guy like Brooks Laich. I met Brooks Laich at a world championship and a guy like that plays the right way; plays hard; plays in any situation; and I think they miss a guy like that.”

Devils veteran Patrik Elias recalled his team having the same break-in period under DeBoer last season, when the Devils went 12-12-1 in their first 25 games, then played 20 games over .500 and rolled all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.

“First of all, you’re going to question certain things no matter who you are,” Elias said. “Not everybody [buys] into it right away. But more and more guys will eventually, and once you do, you’re going to have success – everyone, not just as individuals, but as a team.”

Seventeen games into the season the Capitals [6-10-1] appear to be at the point the Devils were after 25 games last year. Newly converted right wing Alex Ovechkin is coming off his two most dominant games of the season, punctuated by his first hat trick in more than two years.  

Before Saturday’s breakout game, Kovalchuk said it would only be a matter of time before the goals started piling up his Russian rival.

“He really wants to do it; I can see in his eyes he was trying his best,” Kovalchuk said. “He was flying around trying to hit the guys, shoot the puck, a couple breakaways. It’s going to go in. I’m pretty sure he’ll be OK.”

Ovechkin, who was good but not great while scoring five goals in his first 15 games, was better than OK in his two games against the Devils. Dare we say it, he was great.

But for him and the Capitals to make a serious run for a playoff spot, they will need to build on what they’ve started. With 13 points in 17 games, they are just six points behind Alex Semin and the Southeast Division leading Carolina Hurricanes, who come to town Tuesday night.

It is yet another chance for the Capitals to prove what they showed against the Devils on Saturday – that they are moving in the right direction and worthy of getting back into a playoff race.