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NHL Power Rankings: Have the Caps turned things around?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Power Rankings: Have the Caps turned things around?

There was plenty of hand-wringing in Washington after the first month of the season. We all knew this would not be the same Capitals team we have seen in recent years, but perhaps many were not anticipating just how stark the contrast would be.

In their first 12 games of the season, Washington managed only a 5-6-1 record. Last year, the Caps jumped out to a 5-2-1 start in the eight games they played in October.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Three major problems have held this team back thus far. One, they lost a lot of players over the course of the offseason and did not have the money to effectively replace them. Two, the major changes to the lineup also changed the team’s dynamic meaning they had to play differently to be successful, a lesson they clearly struggled with. Three, their luck in terms of health finally caught up with them. There were, of course, other factors, but these seemed to be the main issues.

But now there is reason for hope as Washington has won three of its last four games and the team looks settled into its new identity. The Caps are getting more depth scoring and Braden Holtby has looked tremendous in net. They aren’t all the way there just yet – their top offensive performers have been relatively quiet, the blue line is still a work in progress and both sides of the special teams have not been great – but this team certainly looks better now than it did in the first month of the seaosn.

Now, let’s be real. Four games is a pretty small sample size and the story may be very different next week. The fact is Washington did not drop as far in the Power Rankings as they could have because they are a better team than how they looked over the first month and the same holds true now. They did not shoot up the rankings after just one week because we need to see more.

So just where did the Caps land? Find out here in this week’s rankings.

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Capitals are shaking up the coaching staff in Hershey

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The Hershey Bears

Capitals are shaking up the coaching staff in Hershey

The contracts of Hershey Bears head coach Troy Mann and Bears assistant coach Ryan Murphy will not be renewed for next season, the Capitals announced Wednesday. Hershey finished in last place in the Atlantic Division and did not qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

“Troy is a dedicated and hard-working coach and we appreciate all he has done for the Hershey Bears,” said Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan. “At this point, we feel a fresh approach and a change in leadership is needed in order for us to continue to develop our young players towards the next level and for success at the AHL level. We also want to thank Ryan for his contributions to the Hershey Bears and wish him all the best.”

Just two seasons ago, the Bears under Mann were playing the Calder Cup Finals where they lost in four games to the Lake Erie Monsters. Mann served as an assistant coach for Hershey from 2009-2013 and was hired as the head coach in 2014. He led the Bears to a record of 162-102-22-18 during his tenure, good for sixth all-time among Hershey coaches in wins.

Mann coached several current Capitals players in Hershey including Travis Boyd, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos and Philipp Grubauer, among others. Hershey also currently boasts several of the Caps' biggest prospects such as Lucas Johansen, Connor Hobbs, Riley Barber and Jonas Siegenthaler.

Murphy was with the Bears for all four years of Mann's tenure. He started in video development in Mann's first season and was promoted to assistant coach the following year.

“We’d like to thank Troy Mann and Ryan Murphy for their contributions to the Hershey Bears organization,” said Hershey vice president of hockey operations, Bryan Helmer. “While we are looking to move our hockey club forward, today is certainly an emotional day. I had the pleasure of working with both Troy and Ryan behind the bench for two seasons, and consider them to be great people. We wish both all the best in future endeavors.”

Coaching in the AHL is a tough job as coaches are expected to bring the team success while also developing their NHL club's prospects. There are times when the two goals do not necessarily line up which can make it a difficult balance.

Considering how important it is to develop talent from within, AHL coaches are very significant parts of an organization. Getting the right guy in charge of Hershey won't just boost the AHL team, but will help the Caps down the line with developed players.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: And so we meet again

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: And so we meet again

We all knew this was coming, right?

The Capitals will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs for the third consecutive season and for the 11th time in franchise history. Washington has only beaten Pittsburgh once in their previous 10 series. This season gives them the opportunity to get over the second round and Pittsburgh hump once and for all.

Will this year be different? Will the Caps finally take down their arch nemesis? Will they finally advance to the conference final?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps-Penguins matchup in the Capitals Faceoff Podcast.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page