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NHL Washington Capitals

5 Things Washington Capitals Can Be Happy About

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Keeping Smiles on the Caps' Bench

Adam Oates
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been an up-and-down 2013-14 NHL season so far for the Washington Capitals (4-5-0). Of their four wins, two were extremely ugly and they were lucky to prevail. Two were comprehensive victories.

A record just below .500 is indicative of a team that is firing on all cylinders ... half of the time. Washington has played some sublime periods of hockey where everything falls into place magnificently, and the team looks hot (the recent 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets is a good example). Other times, the team looked cold.

The Caps were certainly hot at the end of the 2012-13 regular season thanks in part to Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro (currently playing a starring role for the Phoenix Coyotes). The team’s management recruited Mikhail Grabovski to fill Ribeiro’s void as the second-line center, but Grabovski was recently demoted to the third line in favor of Martin Erat. The move seems to be working as the Caps have won two in a row since that change. The Caps do miss Ribeiro though; his absence is significant, and there is no denying it.

Line changes are inevitable when a team is struggling to find its footing in the early games of a campaign. Head coach Adam Oates was hesitant at first, but let’s gives him credit for shaking things up a bit. He needed to make a move based on some of the problems the Caps encountered in October. Turnovers have negated connected passes, miscommunications have resulted in goals against, the forecheck has been lacking and there has been a lot of failed man-to-man coverage.

However, it hasn’t all been bad news. After all, the Caps have squeaked consecutive wins based mostly on some exceptional goaltending by their starting netminder, Braden Holtby. He’s the first entry in this look at the five positives that the Caps can smile about.

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5. Braden Holtby

Braden Holtby
Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

After a tricky first four games between the pipes, Holtby has turned things around and now clocks in with more respectable numbers, including a .913 save percentage.

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4. The Power Play Unit

The Power Play Unit
Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

The man-advantage unit has started this regular season as it ended the last — first in the NHL. 11 of the Caps’ 26 goals have come from the power play.

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3. Steve Oleksy

Steve Oleksy
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The journeyman defenseman is maturing with each shift he completes. Oleksy has become a triple-threat of late, performing solidly as a blue-liner, in offensive maneuvers and in fights.

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2. Nicklas Backstrom

Nicklas Backstrom
Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Backstrom is one of the best players in the NHL and one with the tiniest ego. He is invaluable to the franchise and leads the team with nine assists so far.

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1. Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Is he the best player in the world? It’s up for debate, but he is definitely the best player on the team. It took him 22 games last season to record nine goals. It’s taken him nine games this season to record the same tally. A happy Ovechkin equals a happy Capitals team.