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Who's hot and who's not?: Oshie is crushing it while Ovechkin searches for scoring touch

Who's hot and who's not?: Oshie is crushing it while Ovechkin searches for scoring touch

Once a week this season, we're taking a closer look at the numbers and pointing out a few trends that every Capitals fan should know about.

Hot

T.J. Oshie

In his last 11 games, Oshie has seven goals and five assists. Since Jan. 1, in fact, the first line winger is the Caps’ leading goal scorer with 14. That’s two more than anyone else on the team…and Oshie missed six games during that stretch. With one more goal, Oshie will match his career high of 26, which he set last season. And the timing couldn’t be better for the 30-year-old, who is setting himself up for a big free agent contract this offseason. “Every player handles it differently,” Coach Barry Trotz said of contract year pressure. “Some players have career years on those years. Some players wilt under that pressure. He’s real focused. He’s having an exceptional year.”    

Nicklas Backstrom

Backstrom leads the Caps in points with 67 (21 goals, 46 assists) in 65 games. And he's been red hot the past 15 contests. During that span, the 29-year-old center has eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points—seven more than any of his teammates in that timeframe. Backstrom also logged seven shots against the Stars. He hasn’t taken seven shots in a game since 2013. So, yeah, he’s feeling it.

Penalty kill

The Caps’ penalty kill has risen to fourth (tie) entering Wednesday’s game with an effectiveness rate of 85.0 percent. Over the past 10 games, the Jay Beagle-and Karl Alzner-led unit has thwarted 25 of 28 shorthanded situations. This, of course, is a good thing for a team that’s got a penchant for taking minor penalties. In fact, since Dec. 31, the Caps have been assessed 124 minors. The next team is Tampa Bay with 106.

RELATED: Caps' playoff opponent watch: Battling Brooklyn

Cold

Alex Ovechkin

Ovechkin has not scored a goal at even strength since Jan. 31—a span of 15 games—and has no goals in the Caps’ last seven contests. Overall, the 31-year-old has 27 goals (two more than Oshie) and is on pace for 34. Ovechkin had 50 or more each of the last three seasons. Asked about the downturn this week, Trotz said he’s confident his captain will get hot. “Early in that [slump], I don’t think he was getting very many chances,” Trotz said. “I think he’s working better for those chances [now]. He’s going to score, I’m pretty sure about that. …He’ll get back on track and get hot here. It’s tightening up now [so] you have to work for your goals, you have to work for your space.”

Goals per game since the bye

From Jan. 3 - Feb. 11, a span of 20 games, the Caps boasted the best offense in the NHL, scoring a total of 93 goals (4.65 per game). Then they had a six-day bye week. Since returning, they’ve scored 20 goals in nine games (2.22 per game). Sure, they’ve played a few desperate teams that adopted a, shall we say, defensive posture. (Flyers and Devils, I’m looking at you.) Still, it’s time for Ovechkin and Co. to bear down and get the “snipe” back in their game, as Trotz is fond of saying.  

Recent first periods

Entering Wednesday’s games, the Caps were tied with the Maple Leafs for the most first period goals (67) in the NHL. That trend, however, has been slowing as of late. In fact, in the nine games since the bye, they’ve come up empty in the first period six times. “We haven’t dominated,” Trotz said. “It was a sort of a mindset [prior to the hiatus]. We came out with a lot of juice and jumped on teams. And lately, we just haven’t. We haven't come out with that, ‘Let’s jump on you early and not give you a chance to get off the mat.’ We’ve been sorta saying, ‘Let’s see what happens.’”

MORE CAPITALS: Capitals ink two college free agents

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2017-18 Metropolitan Division Preview: New York Rangers

2017-18 Metropolitan Division Preview: New York Rangers

Last season, the Metropolitan Division was the toughest in the NHL, producing the Stanley Cup champ, the regular season champ and three of the top four teams in the overall standings. How’s the division shaping up for 2017-18 after a summer of change for a few of its eight teams? This week, CSN is taking a look at each team’s offseason moves and predicting how they’ll do this winter.

Team: New York Rangers.

2016-17 Results: 48-28-6 (102 points, fourth in the division). Defeated Montreal in the first round before losing to Ottawa in the second.

Notable acquisitions: D Kevin Shattenkirk, G Ondrej Pavelec, C David Desharnais, D Anthony DeAngelo and assistant coach Lindy Ruff.

Notable departures: F Derek Stepan, G Antti Raanta, F Oscar Lindberg, D Dan Girardi, D Kevin Klein and F Tanner Glass.

When they will play the Caps: At Washington Dec. 8, at New York Dec. 27, at New York March 26 and at Washington March 28.

MORE CAPITALS: 25 most important Caps: No. 22 Pheonix Copley

2017-18 Rangers Analysis: Following their second round loss to the Senators, this much had become clear about the Rangers: in order to return to contender status they needed an offseason refresh on the backend.

So GM Jeff Gorton got to work.

He signed hometown standout Kevin Shattenkirk, the top prize on the free agent market, to a team-friendly deal. He re-upped late-season addition Brendan Smith. He also bought out longtime Ranger Dan Girardi, while 32-year-old Kevin Klein retired from the NHL.

As a result, the Rangers will enter camp next month with a revamped—and improved—blue line that’ll boast Ryan McDonagh, Shattenkirk, Brady Skjei and Smith in the top 4.

The third pair? There’s options, including 10-year vet Marc Staal, Nick Holden and 2014 first rounder Anthony DeAngelo, acquired in the June trade that sent top line center Derek Stepan to Arizona. (The Stepan deal, which also sent valuable backup goalie Antti Raanta to the Coyotes for DeAngelo and a first round pick, cleared much needed cap space, some of which was used to sign Shattenkirk.)

Up front, the Rangers’ offense (fourth best last season at 3.09 goals per game) figures to miss Stepan and his 55 points, but the group still looks awfully potent with the likes of Mats Zuccarello, J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, Michael Grabner, Rick Nash and Mika Zibanejad shouldering the scoring load.

In all, New York returns nine of its top 10 point-getters from a year ago, while adding power play wiz Shattenkirk.

Over the past six seasons, the Rangers have advanced to the conference final three times and the Stanley Cup final once. With the renovation on defense, might this be the year Henrik Lundqvist and Co. finish the job?

2017-18 Rangers Season prediction: 

Speaking of Lundqvist, I suspect he holds the key to unlocking New York’s full potential.

He’s been the Rangers’ rock for past decade, but you can’t gloss over the fact that he’s 35 years old, has logged some hard miles and is coming off the worst season regular season of his career, during which he posted a .910 save percentage and a 2.74 goals against average. He’s also returning from a sprained knee that he suffered while backstopping Sweden to the gold medal at the World Championships in May.

In a recent interview with NHL.com, Lundqvist said he doesn’t expect the knee to give him any trouble. But he also acknowledged the need to be more consistent, saying of last season, “The highs were as high as any other year. The lows were a little too low.”

Was a blip? Or is King Henrik slowing down? The answer, right now, is not clear.

If Lundqvist bounces back, though, I like the retooled Rangers’ chances challenging for the division title…and, perhaps, a much bigger prize, as well.

More Metro Division previews:

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The 25 most important players for the Caps: No. 22 Pheonix Copley

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USA TODAY Sports

The 25 most important players for the Caps: No. 22 Pheonix Copley

Every player on an NHL team plays a role. Some roles are bigger than others.

The Caps will look to their prospects to take carry a bigger load than in recent years while there while the team’ leaders and superstars will continue being tasked with leading the way.

Jill Sorenson, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan are counting down who the 25 most important players for the Caps will be in the 2017-18 season.

Today’s player: No. 22 Pheonix Copley

How does the team's No. 3 goalie make this list? Because there is a good chance he will not be the No. 3 goalie for long.

Copley originally signed with the Capitals in 2014 as an undrafted free agent. He was shipped off to St. Louis in 2015 in the trade package that netted Washington T.J. Oshie, but the team reacquired Copley in 2017 as part of the Kevin Shattenkirk trade.

RELATED: 2017-18 Metropolitan Division Preview: Philadelphia Flyers

The move was an instant boost for Hershey. Copley managed a 2.31 GAA and .920 save percentage in 25 games with the Bears and played well in the playoffs until a groin pull prematurely ended his postseason.

As good as Copley looked in Hershey, general manager Brian MacLellan did not target the 25-year old netminder just to boost the AHL squad. Copley was brought in as a possible replacement for current backup Philipp Grubauer and there is a good possibility that he could take that role at some point this season.

It's no secret that Grubauer wants to be a starter. After a season in which he posted a 2.04 GAA, .926 save percentage and 13-6-2 record, one could argue he is ready to make that jump. After Vegas selected Nate Schmidt in the expansion draft and with no goalie market over the summer, Grubauer still remains in Washington, but that does not mean he will remain for the entire 2017-18 campaign.

Some goalies don't pan out for teams and others get injured. There will be teams out there who will find themselves in need of a goalie this season and they will come calling, perhaps even as early as training camp if someone suffers an early injury. The Capitals are a team with obvious needs. They do not boast the same depth they have had in recent years and will likely be willing to listen to offers for their German backup. If and when that happens, then Copley will most likely step make the jump to the NHL as backup to Holtby.

Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.

— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber