NHL

Capitals' playoffs match validates new coach Oates

Share This Story

   
 

WASHINGTON (AP)

The Washington Capitals have some sort of knack for making late-season comebacks under first-time NHL coaches.

Seven straight wins to get into the playoffs under midseason replacement Bruce Boudreau in 2008. Winning eight of 10 last year under Dale Hunter after Boudreau was fired.

Adam Oates' turnaround is perhaps the most impressive of the three. He had to install a new system during a lockout-shortened season. The team got off to a 2-8-1 start and was next-to-last in the Eastern Conference standings a little more than a month ago. One of his main tasks was to make sure his players weren't starting to doubt him.

''I believed in what we were doing,'' he said Wednesday. ''And I was hoping that it would turn around, so we could prove that we were going in the right direction. And I think we've proven that.''

Indeed. The Capitals have surged to the playoffs by winning 10 of their last 11, clinching the final Southeast Division title before realignment kicks in next season. The talk of whether Washington should have unloaded players at the trade deadline now seems silly - as does the talk that Alex Ovechkin was in an irreversible decline.

''There's definitely some soul-searching that you do when you start out 2-8,'' defenseman Jack Hillen said. ''Everybody's looking around, trying to find their identity on this team. The lockout really hurt us more than others because we had new guys, new system, new coach, and were trying to figure it out.''

Ovechkin is now on the verge of winning the goal-scoring title, having tallied his 31st Tuesday night in a win over the Winnipeg Jets. He'll get some serious consideration for league MVP.

''I think the beginning of the year when it was new coaching staff, new system, we change our lines and we just don't know how to play,'' said Ovechkin, who had more adjusting to do than most after Oates moved him from left wing to right wing. ''We need some time to realize how we have to play. It takes us probably 15 games, maybe 16 games to realize it. We try to find the lineup, we try to find good chemistry and it started working after 15, 16 games.''

Ovechkin has found Oates to be a refreshing change from Hunter, who acted more as a CEO and relied on his assistants to communicate with players. Oates is hands-on, using humor and positive reinforcement to spur on the troops.

''I think he knows how to treat the guys,'' Ovechkin said. ''He was on the same page with us. He knows exactly what we need. Sometimes when we need days off, he gives us days off, or we just talk to him and he give us options. That kind of chemistry with him and relationship, it's working, so I'm pretty happy he's our coach.''

Oates also got a special mention Wednesday on owner Ted Leonsis' blog.

''He is incredibly calm and positive,'' Leonsis said, ''and has built a lot of confidence in our players and in his new system.''

Oates is modest about the praise he's getting - yet fully aware that it's a reversal from what he was hearing from some pundits early in the season.

''I didn't have doubts about the way they could play and what I think it could turn into,'' he said. ''The doubts, I think, came just because I was a first-year coach, and all the people out there that would jump on that. But I'm glad all the guys didn't listen to them.''

Washington has two games remaining in the regular season to fine-tune the system before hosting Game 1 against a yet-to-be-determined opponent next week. Then it will be time to see if Oates can do something that Boudreau and Hunter couldn't - get the Capitals deep into the playoffs.

''It's the Stanley Cup, that's the only thing that matters,'' goaltender Braden Holtby said. ''This is a step in the right direction, but we have a lot more work to do.''

---

Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

Tagged: Capitals, Alex Ovechkin

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by



Play Hockey Simulation Game on WhatIfSports

NHL Videos

Toews, Kane: Easy decision to resign with Blackhawks Posted: Jul 17, 2014
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane say their decision to sign matching 8-year, $84M...

LA mayor 'F-bombs' Kings rally Posted: Jun 17, 2014
Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti toasts the Stanley Cup champion Kings in front o...

Kings, fans celebrate Stanley Cup Posted: Jun 16, 2014
Kings players celebrate winning the Stanley Cup with a parade through downtown L...

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Reebok Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins Premier Hockey Jersey - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Pittsburgh_Penguins/browse/featuredproduct/175178/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_175000/FF_175178_xl.jpg&w=100 159.95 Reebok Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins Premier Hockey Jersey - Black
    Reebok Dallas Stars White Premier Hockey Jersey http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Dallas_Stars/browse/featuredproduct/243363/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_243000/FF_243363_xl.jpg&w=100 124.95 Reebok Dallas Stars White Premier Hockey Jersey
    Reebok Tampa Bay Lightning Primary Logo T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Tampa_Bay_Lightning/browse/featuredproduct/301017/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_301000/ff_301017_xl.jpg&w=100 19.95 Reebok Tampa Bay Lightning Primary Logo T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Majestic Anaheim Ducks Black Official Logo Full Zip Hoodie Sweatshirt http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Anaheim_Ducks/browse/featuredproduct/398322/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_398000/FF_398322_xl.jpg&w=100 43.99 Majestic Anaheim Ducks Black Official Logo Full Zip Hoodie Sweatshirt
    Detroit Red Wings Youth Black Southpaw Backpack http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Detroit_Red_Wings/browse/featuredproduct/403205/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_403000/FF_403205_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Detroit Red Wings Youth Black Southpaw Backpack
    Reebok Chicago Blackhawks #88 Patrick Kane Red Premier Hockey Jersey http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Chicago_Blackhawks/browse/featuredproduct/408123/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_408000/FF_408123_xl.jpg&w=100 159.95 Reebok Chicago Blackhawks #88 Patrick Kane Red Premier Hockey Jersey
    Majestic New Jersey Devils Red Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_Jersey_Devils/browse/featuredproduct/456774/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_456000/ff_456774_xl.jpg&w=100 47.99 Majestic New Jersey Devils Red Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt
    Vancouver Canucks 2011 NHL Western Conference Champions Hockey Stick http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Vancouver_Canucks/browse/featuredproduct/665779/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_665000/ff_665779_xl.jpg&w=100 11.95 Vancouver Canucks 2011 NHL Western Conference Champions Hockey Stick
    Majestic New York Islanders Royal Blue Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Islanders/browse/featuredproduct/752594/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_752000/ff_752594_xl.jpg&w=100 47.99 Majestic New York Islanders Royal Blue Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt