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NHL Power Rankings: Caps are starting to hit their stride

NHL Power Rankings: Caps are starting to hit their stride

Through the first half of the regular season, one thing is very clear: The Washington Capitals are a very tough team to beat when they are firing on all cylinders.

We have seen glimpses of that all season. After getting shutout by San Jose, the Caps managed a road win in Chicago. After two straight losses, Washington trounced rival Pittsburgh 7-1. But the ultimate beatdown came this week against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

SEE THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Columbus had looked unbeatable with 16 straight wins, just one shy of tying the all-time NHL record. Then the Blue Jackets came to Washington and the Caps obliterated them 5-0.

The important thing now is for Washington to build some consistency off of that win and extend their five-game win streak.

With how dominant the Metropolitan Division has looked this season, the Caps began sliding in the standings, causing many to wonder just how good this team really is. Thursday gives you the answer. When this team wants to play, they are pretty darn good. Now they just need to bottle that up to keep pace in the division and make a deep playoff run.

The big win over Columbus and the five-game win streak have Washington climbing in this week's Power Rankings. Find out just how high here.

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Trotz: Re-signing Oshie was 'the highest priority' for the Caps

Trotz: Re-signing Oshie was 'the highest priority' for the Caps

CHICAGO—As excited as Barry Trotz was about retaining T.J. Oshie’s goal production, he was just as pleased to keep all the intangibles the 30-year-old brings to Washington's lineup. 

“For us, that was the highest priority,” Trotz said of re-signing Oshie. “Obviously, Osh means a lot to us.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps locked up the high-scoring winger to an eight-year, $46 million contract extension. 

“I think it sends a great message to not only our team [but] our fans,” Trotz said. “You see what Osh did the last two years. He’s a big part of our culture, a big part of our success.”

RELATED: Caps made 'a couple of good' offers but to keep Schmidt

Oshie has put up back-to-back career highs in goals, scoring 26 in 2015-16 and 33 last season. He’s also a lead-by-example type who plays bigger than his 6-foot, 189-pounds.

“He’s a guy that brings energy,” Trotz said. “He’s a guy that consistently brings a high compete level, a high execution level and a relentless attitude. That’s Osh.”

The Caps now have four of their top-6 forwards from last season under contract, with Oshie joining Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson. Restricted free agent Evgeny Kuznetsov, meantime, is expected to re-sign, while Andre Burakovsky figures to round out the top two lines. Burakovsky is also a restricted free agent.

“We knew we were going to lose some guys,” Trotz said. “We still feel we’re going to be a high-scoring team. Obviously Osh had a career year last year. We’re hoping that he can build on that and have other people step in and fill some roles.”

MORE CAPITALS: MacLellan: Caps likely done signing own UFAs

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MacLellan: Caps made 'a couple of good' offers but lost Schmidt to Vegas anyway

MacLellan: Caps made 'a couple of good' offers but lost Schmidt to Vegas anyway

CHICAGO—The Caps tried to work out a side deal with Las Vegas ahead of Wednesday’s expansion draft but were unable to dissuade the Golden Knights from ultimately plucking a player off their roster, GM Brian MacLellan said. 
 
Vegas, of course, selected Nate Schmidt, a 25-year-old defenseman whom Washington left exposed. The Caps had Schmidt penciled into a top-4 role for next season.   
 
“We made a couple of good offers, I think,” MacLellan said Friday night at United Center, where the NHL was hosting the entry draft. “I think they just liked Schmidt.”

RELATED: MacLellan: Caps likely done signing own UFAs
 
MacLellan said Vegas’ asking price was “a couple of assets” but he declined to be specific. 
 
“I think in the end, they really like Schmidt,” MacLellan said. “At one point, we thought they were taking [backup goaltender Philipp] Grubauer. They probably were making a choice down to the end, and they ended up choosing Schmidt.”
 
The loss of Schmidt leaves the Caps with a hole on the blue line that they haven't quite figured out how to fill just yet, MacLellan said. 
 
The Caps currently have four defensemen—Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, Brooks Orpik and Taylor Chorney—under contract for next season. Restricted free agent Dmitry Orlov, meanwhile, is expected to re-sign. But that still leaves Washington one short of three full pairs, and that doesn't factor in the need for a quality seventh so they've got some work to do.

“We have a job opening,” MacLellan said. “We’re going to look at [our] young guys, look at free agents, maybe the trade market. We’ll see. We’ll pursue all avenues and see what we can come up with.”

MORE CAPITALS: Oshie signs long-term deal to stay in D.C.

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