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Chorney one of Caps' best 'under the radar' signings

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Chorney one of Caps' best 'under the radar' signings

News, notes and lots of numbers on the Capitals as they enjoy a day off the ice before departing for Columbus, where they’ll face the Blue Jackets Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena (6:30, CSN):

Quietly effective: Through 36 games Caps defenseman Taylor Chorney has five assists and ranks tied for third on the team with a plus-14 rating while averaging 13:17 of ice time.

“He’s one of those real good signings for us this year,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s under the radar.  (His free-agent signing) was a footnote for a lot of people in this area. 

“He’s come in and filled a really good role, can play both sides on the back end and he’s been solid. Todd (Reirden) has done a good job with all our defensemen and I’m real happy with Taylor. There are certain guys everybody sort of cheers for and he’s one of them.”

View from the top: The Caps’ 34-8-3 record is their best-ever after 45 games. It’s also the second-best start in NHL history, trailing only the 1929-30 Boston Bruins, who won 38 of their first 45 games. The Caps have earned at least a point in 24 of their last 27 games (22-3-2) and have outscored opponents 94-55 during that span.

RELATED: How 'Stick' netted trick in Caps' big win over Rangers

Welcome, now get out!: The Caps have not lost at home since Nov. 19 when the Dallas Stars beat them 3-2. Since then they’ve won 12 straight at Verizon Center, their longest home winning streak since winning a franchise-record 13 straight during their Presidents’ Trophy season of 2009-10. The Caps have outscored opponents 50-21 in those 12 home games and are 14 for 38 (36.8 percent) on the power play during that span.

Power-ful: Speaking of the Caps’ power play, which struck twice against the Rangers on Sunday, the Caps are 21-0-2 in games they score on the man advantage. The Caps are also 25-0-1 this season when leading after the second period.

Second hatty: Justin Williams’ hat trick on Sunday was the second of his career. His only other came on Oct. 16, 2006 against the Tampa Bay Lightning when he netted three goals and one assist. It also marked the second hat trick for the Capitals this season. Evgeny Kuznetsov notched his first  with a three-goal, two assist night in Edmonton on Oct. 23.

Feeling Grubi: Caps backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer stopped all 11 shots he faced in relief of Braden Holtby (dehydration) Sunday night, improving his record to 3-1-0 record in his last six appearances. He has a 1.36 goals-against average and a .955 save percentage in those six games.

Streaking: Alex Ovechkin scored his 27th goal of the season and his 10th power-play goal on Sunday. He has scored six goals in his last six games. Nicklas Backstrom picked up an assist on a perfectly timed pass to Marcus Johansson and has earned 10 points in his last nine games . Dmitry Orlov also earned an assist and has three points in his last four games. Johansson has scored a goal in two straight games  and has eight points in his last eight games. Kuznetsov recorded three assists, marking his second three-assist game of the season and the third of his career. Kuznetsov has seven points in his last four games and leads the Caps with 44 points in 45 games.  Andre Burakovsky earned two assists, marking his third multi-assist game in his last four games.

MORE CAPITALS: Grubauer proving to be important piece of Caps' success

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Was Columbus' travel a factor in the Caps' series comeback?

Was Columbus' travel a factor in the Caps' series comeback?

Whenever a playoff series ends, the analysis begins soon after. Why did this team win? Why did this team lose? Why did this player perform while this one did not?  This is an exercise performed by media, players and coaches alike, especially for teams that walk away from a series believing they let an opportunity slip away.

The Columbus Blue Jackets fell to the Washington Capitals in six games despite taking a 2-0 series lead by winning both opening games in Washington. Head coach John Tortorella will have all summer to think about what he could have done differently and what went wrong for his team, but it sounds like he already has at least one theory as to why they lost.

In a series that featured four overtime games, Game 4 stands out as being far more one-sided than the others. Washington turned in the most dominant performance of the series in a 4-1 win that knotted the teams at two wins apiece.

That game stood out to Tortorella too and he thinks he knows why the Blue jackets laid an egg that night: Travel.

"I think we should’ve stayed in Washington after that second overtime game, the second game there," Tortorella said. "I think that comes back and gets you later on in the series. We should’ve stayed in Washington and let them get a good night sleep. They got in here so late. I don’t think it affected us in Game 3. It comes the next days, so that falls on me."

When analyzing why the Caps won the series, chances are travel is not going to be a reason many people consider. Perhaps there is some merit to this. After all, as the father of an infant, I can certainly vouch for how much of a difference one good night of sleep can make.

But perhaps there is another message being sent here by Tortorella.

Tortorella is a master at using the media to his advantage. He uses the media to send messages to his team or draw attention on himself and away from the players.

Tortorella just saw his young team give up a 2-0 series lead and lose four straight games. Those are the kind of losses that can stick with a player and create doubt in the mind of a team the next time they reach a tough spot in the postseason.

So what did Tortorella do? He came out and put the worst loss of the series on his own shoulders. Why was it his fault? Uh...travel? Yeah, let's go with travel.

The Blue Jackets are not the first team to play overtime on the road or the first team to deal with travel concerns. To hear a coach say it was a reason they lost a game and not even the next game after the travel? Well, that's a first.

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Alex Ovechkin's evolution as a player was on full display in Game 6

Alex Ovechkin's evolution as a player was on full display in Game 6

We all know that Alex Ovechkin is a world-class goal scorer. He is the best goal scorer of his generation and perhaps the best of all time.

He tallied another two goals Monday in the Capitals' 6-3 victory Game 6 over the Blue Jackets, but that’s not what really impressed head coach Barry Trotz.

While Ovechkin's career is full of highlight reel goals, it was the ugly plays that really caught Trotz's eye on Monday.

"[Ovechkin's] evolved in areas of his game," Trotz said after the game.

"He’s not just at that dot. He’ll go to the front of the net, he’s not scared to do that. It’s just adding layers to his game."

Ovechkin's first goal of the game was not pretty. It won't make any Top 10 lists, it won't be shown throughout the U.S. and Canada. It was an ugly rebound goal...and it was beautiful.

Just four minutes after Nick Foligno tied the game, Ovechkin put the Caps back ahead with a rebound goal. He parked himself in front of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and was in perfect position when Bobrovsky made a kick out save to backhand the rebound into the empty net.

Those are the type of plays we did not always see from "The Great 8." But his performance on Monday did not stop there.

As Washington attempted to shut the door on the game and the series, Ovechkin did what veteran leaders do, laying out to block a Ryan Murray shot with less than three minutes to go.

"I’m probably as proud of him right at the end of the game blocking shots and doing that type of thing," Trotz said. "That’s full commitment. When that was necessary, that’s where you get your street cred with your teammates. You’ve got to block a shot when it’s necessary and get a puck out when it’s necessary. I’d probably give him more props on that than even scoring goals because that’s what you really expect of him."

Few expected a 32-year-old Ovechkin to rebound from a 33-goal season, but he did just that with 49 goals in 2017-18 to win his seventh Rocket Richard Trophy as the league-leader.

The reason why was on full display on Monday. His game has evolved, as cliche as it sounds.

Instead of relying just on the quick rushes, pretty one-timers and incredible dekes, Ovechkin has committed more to getting to the contested areas. He's altered his game. He is scoring the type of ugly, dirty goals the Capitals desperately need in the playoffs.

That commitment on offense seemed to translate to the defense as well on Monday night. putting his body is a dangerous position laying out for blocked shots.

"Those are the necessary things, those necessary details that allow you to win," Trotz said. "If you don’t have them, then you’re not going to win."

MORE CAPITALS: Pens again: Capitals to face Penguins in NHL Playoffs for third consecutive year