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Leonsis hopes Oates answer to elusive Cup


Leonsis hopes Oates answer to elusive Cup

At his introductory news conference Wednesday at Verizon Center, new Capitals coach Adam Oates recalled the day he was announced as the teams captain in 1999.

It was over by the White House and I think there was no one there, Oates recalled with a laugh. People were just walking by.

On Wednesday, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis pointed out that 70 people were in attendance at the news conference, an indication of the growth the team has enjoyed in recent years. He also noted the need for his team to take a crucial next step.

Were at that point where we have to do better in the playoffs, Leonsis said. We have to win the Stanley Cup. Thats what our mission is and Adams been to the Finals twice -- once as a player and once as a coach -- and we want to win a Cup together.

Nothing like a little pressure from your boss on your first full day on the job.

Oates, 49, led the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Final as a player in 1998 and led the Devils there again as an assistant coach this season with the Devils.

Oates has been an NHL assistant coach the past three years -- one in Tampa and the last two in New Jersey -- and was asked the biggest difference between the role he had and the one he is inheriting.

Assistant coaches become a little more buddies to the players than the head coach, he said. But I think you can call a player in and talk to him man-to-man and he leaves and you go coach him. As long as you earn his respect, thats the most important thing.

Unlike former Capitals coach Dale Hunter, who often let his roster decisions do the talking, Oates said he believes strongly in communicating with his players simply because he was one. He said he plans on modeling his coaching style after Brian Sutter, who coached him in both St. Louis and Boston.

I cant be a hypocrite as a coach because as a player thats what I wanted, Oates said. I wanted feedback. I wanted communication from the boss. You can yell at me if you want, but I wanted input. And thats the coach I want to be.

Im a true believer in communication. When the players walk in and see your work ethic, your intensity, your knowledge, they become believers. When you get on the ice and show them things they can add to their game I think that just helps the cause When you live it every day they believe in you as well.

Capitals general manager George McPhee said he wanted to swing for the fences in his search for a new head coach and in hiring Oates he believes he found what he calls a difference maker.

In terms of his hockey IQ I dont know if there is a player that Ive met thats better, McPhee said. His understanding of the game, his ability to articulate what goes on on the ice is really impressive.

As for the nuts and bolts of his coaching methods, Oates said he plans on playing in-your-face hockey with an emphasis on strong positioning ion all three zones.

When you look at the Finals this year, you saw two teams, the Kings and Devils, that were basically in-your-face teams all over the ice, in all three zones, he said. I really feel the game today is about establishing territory and protecting it.

I look at the Caps lineup and the talent level and I dont see any reason we cant push the pace and be can aggressive team, but at the same time not sacrificing defense and protecting our goalie and that requires commitment all over the ice.

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How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

Things did not look good for the Capitals after two games.

Facing a 0-2 series hole after losing both games in Washington, it looked like it could be an early summer. The Caps were going to be the first team to ever lose a series in the playoffs to the Columbus Blue Jackets.


But the Caps rallied.

Washington won the next four games and turned what looked like it would be another postseason disaster into a postseason triumph.

Only once in franchise history had the Caps rallied from a 0-2 deficit and only once had the Caps won four straight games to win a series. They managed both against the Blue Jackets.

Here's how the Caps were able to rally to a first-round victory over Columbus.

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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? 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.