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Oates has a few tricks for Ovechkin


Oates has a few tricks for Ovechkin

If Adam Oates has a plan to re-invent Alex Ovechkin he wasnt about to share it on his first full day as coach of the Washington Capitals.

But if his work with Ilya Kovalchuk in New Jersey is any indication, Oates is hoping a few tweaks will help elevate Ovechkin to the kind of impact player he was two years ago.

For starters, he plans on using Ovechkins powerful shot from the point on the power play. And there is a pretty good chance he wont bench him after the Capitals take their first lead of the season.

But Oates believes that after seeing Ovechkin held to a career-low 32 goals last season and a career-low 65 points this season, his career can be rejuvenated.

The league gets better and better every year and theres not a lot of goal scoring anymore, Oates said.

I think the physical element of his game is unprecedented. I saw him play Boston and hes the only guy in the league who can take on guys like Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic and Dennis Seidenberg and have that physical impact.

I think hes a special player. In terms of adding a little bit to his game, I think I can. He's got to earn my trust as a coach first, along with the other guys. But even superstars have something to learn.

Oates is Ovechkins third coach in eight months and there was a groundswell following the departures of the previous two coaches that Ovechkin might have played at least a small role.

Ovechkin clearly was unhappy with his self-described role as a plumber under Dale Hunter and was moved to call Oates and congratulate him on getting the job as Capitals coach.

That was not lost on Oates.

It meant a lot, Oates said. He was very excited on the phone and I was very excited. I told him I was looking forward to coaching him and coaching this team. He seemed very enthusiastic.

Oates said he does not know Ovechkin as a person, but recognizes the impact he can have on a team when he channels his abundance of energy.

I dont know him other than to watch him, Oates said. My favorite quality about the man is that hes obviously every enthusiastic when he scores but when you watch his teammates score hes just as enthusiastic and when you watch that from the outside looking in thats a great quality.

It was at that point that Capitals general manager George McPhee interjected his own thoughts on the subject.

To finish Adams answer, McPhee quipped, Ovechkin still might have to dump it in and block a shot once in a while.

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.


Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.

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3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

The Capitals needed a win in the worst way and they got one, dispatching the Buffalo Sabres in dominating fashion with a 5-1 win.

Washington was locked in a tight game leading 2-0 heading into the third period when Sam Reinhart scored just 14 seconds into the period to pull Buffalo to within one. The Caps then slammed the door shut, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Sabres.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Ovechkin: This was career game No. 983 for Ovechkin, tying him for the franchise record for most games played with Calle Johansson. Ovechkin very fittingly celebrated the occasion with two goals. The first came on a power play goal from the office, but there was no need for a one-timer on this one. The Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner.

He added a second goal late off a deflection from a John Carlson shot.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: To say the Caps have struggled at the start of games would be an understatement. In the last 18 games, Washington has held the lead after the first period only once. Kuznetsov made sure this game started off on the right foot as he scored just 50 seconds into the game. He turned on the jets in the neutral zone to turn the edge on Jason Pominville then easily skated around a weak, ill-advised challenge from Robin Lehner before flinging the puck into the yawning net.

It was the fastest goal to start a game by the Caps this season. It was just the start of what would be a four-point night for the Caps' center as he added three assists.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky had the highlight of the game with his end-to-end goal in the second period to put Washington up 2-0. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he launched himself from the defensive zone, streaked down the center of the ice and in on net to slide the puck through the Lehner's five-hole.

Look how Burakovsky was able to slice through the Sabres' defense. Buffalo had him surrounded, but his speed caught the Sabres off-guard and they were not able to recover in time to actually slow him down.