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So far, so good for Kevin Shattenkirk's adjustment to the Capitals

So far, so good for Kevin Shattenkirk's adjustment to the Capitals

In 2009, Kevin Shattenkirk was in the Capitals locker room at Verizon Center as a member of the Boston Terriers playing in the Frozne Four. He holds fond memories of that time as he helped the Terriers win the tournament for a national championship.

Eight years later, Shattenkirk has another happy memory in his return to that locker room: His first home win with the Washington Capitals.

“Last time I was in here I think we were going really crazy after a win,” Shattenkirk said. “It was a heck of a day, but it's a lot of fun to just be back in here and experience that again.”

The stakes may not have been as high in Thursday’s game against the New Jersey Devils, but it was an important step for what the Capitals hope to be a championship season with their prized deadline acquisition settling into the lineup.

“Made some real good poise plays in tight areas,” Barry Trotz said after the game. “He wasn't being safe, he was actually a little more relaxed. I think it was good.”

RELATED: Caps outlast Devils to set franchise record

Shattenkirk continued what has appeared to be a rather seamless transition into the Capitals lineup, playing a team-high 21:24, including a whopping 7:23 on the power play, in his first home game as a Capital.

“I think whenever there's more minutes, especially on a power play, for a guy like me it helps me,” Shattenkirk said. “Just feeling the puck and starting to kind of get that back into my game during a game.”

When a defenseman leads the team in ice time for a game just two games after being acquired by that team, it shows a remarkable level of confidence by the coaching staff. Talking to his teammates, it’s easy to see why Trotz feels that way.

“He doesn't have any holes in his game,” Carlson said. “There's adjustments for sure that he's dealing with … but I think [it] helps feeling a part of us right away and then his skills can shine.”

“He's patient, he's a smart player,” Braden Holtby said. “He's very skilled. Obviously everyone sees the skill but he played with two different D partners he has never played with before and he looks like they've played together all year.”

Shattenkirk played alongside Brooks Orpik on the third pair in Orpik’s return from a lower-body injury. Those two are expected to remain a pair into the playoffs and they looked to be in sync together right away, though there remain a few kinks to work out.

“I think I was almost the recipient of some of his hits,” Shattenkirk said. “He flies around out there and lays his body on the line. Little things that we have to work out ourselves, little plays together. But all around, I know that I have a solid guy back there who can really cover for me whenever I need him to.”

All of this should be music to the ears of Capitals fans who have seen a parade of deadline acquisitions fizzle in the Alex Ovechkin era as they were unable to adjust to their new team.

It may be a small sample size, but two games in there seems to be no growing pains at all for a player the Caps hope will be a major key in a championship run.

That enthusiasm is shared by the fans.

In the first period of a sleepy game on Thursday that offered little to cheer about, the fans gave Shattenkirk a thunderous ovation when he was shown on the video screen during a stoppage in play.

“I've known that this fan base is great and they've supported this team for a long time,” Shattenkirk said, “But even a little thing like that, for a guy like me who hasn't been here before, it was very special and meant a lot to me.”

MORE CAPITALS: Jakub Vrana's power-play goal puts Caps up 1-0 over Devils

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Playoffs Power Rankings: On to Round two

Playoffs Power Rankings: On to Round two

And then there were eight.

The Caps’ Game 6 victory on Sunday brought to a close the first round of the playoffs. Already, the field looks entirely different than many anticipated.

Washington came into the postseason as the team to beat, but the Caps were given all they could handle by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Pittsburgh Penguins, meanwhile, made short work of the Columbus Blue Jackets in what was expected to be one of the most competitive series of the first round. This begs the question, are the Penguins now the frontrunners in the East despite ceding home-ice advantage to Washington and not having Kris Letang?

SEE THE UPDATED STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS POWER RANKINGS HERE

The West is now wide open after the Nashville Predators’ stunning sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks. Coming into the playoffs, the St. Louis Blues had the longest odds of any team to win the Cup because their path went through the top two seeds in the West. The Blues dispatched the Minnesota Wild in just five games and Chicago is already out. If you put money on St. Louis, you’re probably feeling pretty good right now.

But did Nashville’s sweep show that they are now the frontrunners in the West?

And let's not forget about the Pacific. The Anaheim Ducks have yet to lose this postseason after a sweep of the Calgary Flames while Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers are out to prove that experience is overrated.

Find out where all eight of the remaining teams stand in this week’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings.

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Prediction recap: Washington survives Toronto's best shot

Prediction recap: Washington survives Toronto's best shot

The Maple Leafs made a push for Game 7, but in the end they fell in Game 6 as the Caps took the game and the series on Sunday.

Here's a recap of the three bold predictions.

1. Toronto will score in the third period - Correct

The hockey gods would not allow this prediction to be wrong. Did you see that bounce off the boards? Not only did it bounce right into the danger area right in front of the bench, it went to the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer in Auston Matthews.

RELATED: 3 key observations: Caps save their best for last

2. Someone will take a penalty against Alex Ovechkin - Wrong

Give Mike Babcock all the credit in the world. Every point where you thought lack of experience would hurt Toronto, it didn’t. That speaks to coaching. I thought the Maple Leafs would try to coax a penalty out of Ovechkin, but would get carried away. Yet, despite their inexperience and the pressure of the moment, Toronto remained very disciplined.

3. If Toronto leads after the first period, the series is going 7 games - Push

For the first time all series, the score after the first period was 0-0. Both teams had chances but looked more tentative than they had earlier in the series. They recognized what was at stake on Sunday and affected the play to a degree.

2017 Results: I expected to see Toronto’s best push in Game 6 and I was not sure how the Caps would respond. Washington’s response late in the game was very impressive and a great sign for Caps fans going forward in the postseason.

Correct: 8
Wrong: 9
Push: 1

MORE CAPITALS: Capitals vs. Penguins schedule announced