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Capitals winning the special teams war

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Capitals winning the special teams war

A year ago, the Capitals were eliminated from the playoffs at least in part because their power play ran dry, going six straight games without a goal against the New York Rangers and finishing the post-season 3-for-28.

After that series defeat, Capitals coach Barry Trotz conducted an “autopsy” on his team and found that maybe they had become too predictable on the man-advantage.

“That was one area we wanted to make sure we had more adjustments against different kinds of penalty kills,” Trotz said. “We sort of built a foundation of being able to adjust.”

The Flyers have made a concerted effort not to let Alex Ovechkin beat them on the power play, which has left time and space for defenseman John Carlson to blast two power-play goals through traffic and behind Flyers goaltender Steve Mason.

Carlson’s goal Saturday night came after Philadelphia defenseman Nick Schultz lost his stick while trying to defend Ovechkin.

And when Ovechkin finally lit the lamp to give the Caps a 3-1 advantage late in the second period, it was an other-worldly pass from Nicklas Backstrom that found its way through the legs of T.J. Oshie and onto the waiting stick of Ovechkin.

Oshie wasn’t sure what to think when he felt the puck whiz through his skates.

“My mind was like, ‘I’m not going to be able to catch this,” Oshie said. “And when it went right through my legs I was like, ‘This is probably going to O.’ Pure passer, world-class player.”

Marcus Johansson said he believes only one player on the planet could have made that pass.

“I guess he saw through him,” Johansson said. “It’s what he does. Best passer in the league, I think.”

Ovechkin agreed.

“He’s a guy who sees the ice and he feels when he has to make a pass and when not,” Ovechkin said. 

Backstrom was asked if he really meant to place the puck through Oshie’s skates and onto the blade of Ovechkin, who rifled his 37th career playoff goal past Mason.

“Uh, yeah,” Backstrom said with a giggle. “It was the only lane open so I could hit Ovi’s sweet spot.”

And now the Capitals take the positive vibes from a pair of home wins to Philadelphia, where they’ll face the Flyers in Game 3 on Monday night.

“I think our game wasn’t where it needed to be,” Trotz said of his team’s overall effort. “We weren’t able to do some things we wanted to. I think we can get better as the series goes on.”

If that happens, the series could be over before it begins.

MORE CAPITALS: Mason on Chimera goal: 'I messed up'

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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!