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For Capitals, faceoffs are about much more than just the puck drop

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For Capitals, faceoffs are about much more than just the puck drop

The Capitals have placed a big emphasis on winning faceoffs in order to gain possession, but as it turns out, it’s come down to more than just a center winning or losing that faceoff.

After last year’s playoff series against the Rangers, the Capitals felt New York was still able to gain possession even though Washington won faceoffs a majority of the time in six of their seven games. Washington assistant coach Blaine Forsythe told me that even when the Caps were winning draws clean, guys like Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin “were real good at getting in there, being first to the puck, and that’s the kind of mentality you need."

Faceoffs are more than just the drop of the puck, Forsythe explained.

"You have to have five guys on the same page, it’s not just the centers taking the faceoffs, it’s everyone else with their responsibilities.”  

MORE CAPS: PROSPECT REPORT LOOKING STRONG 

So the Caps took a page out of the Rangers playbook and have asked their team to be “faceoff ready.”

Essentially, Forsythe said it comes down to timing. Being faceoff ready means the other four guys on the ice are timing their movement to when the referee drops the puck so they can be a half step ahead of the opposing team in getting a loose puck, regardless of whether it’s a faceoff won or lost.

This mentality of every player trying to be first to the puck really plays into the entire “teamwork” philosophy that Barry Trotz brought to Washington beginning last season. Every player on the ice has a responsibility, regardless of the situation.

So when you watch Friday night's game vs Calgary (6:30 pm, CSN) watch who wins the faceoff, but pay close attention to which team takes control on 50-50 pucks. The Capitals hope that winning those 50-50 pucks will mean possession and perhaps a scoring chance.

I’ll have more on this topic on CSN during tonight’s broadcast of the Capitals game against the Flames. See you then. 

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Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

Alan May knows a thing or two about the trade deadline.

Over the course of his NHL career, May was traded five total times, four at the trade deadline. He sits down with Rob Carlin on a special edition of the Capitals Extra Podcast to tell stories from his playing days about what it was like getting traded.

This one's a can't miss for hockey fans. You can listen to the episode here on the Capitals Extra page or with the player below.

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!