Quick Links

So far, so good for Kevin Shattenkirk's adjustment to the Capitals

So far, so good for Kevin Shattenkirk's adjustment to the Capitals

In 2009, Kevin Shattenkirk was in the Capitals locker room at Verizon Center as a member of the Boston Terriers playing in the Frozne Four. He holds fond memories of that time as he helped the Terriers win the tournament for a national championship.

Eight years later, Shattenkirk has another happy memory in his return to that locker room: His first home win with the Washington Capitals.

“Last time I was in here I think we were going really crazy after a win,” Shattenkirk said. “It was a heck of a day, but it's a lot of fun to just be back in here and experience that again.”

The stakes may not have been as high in Thursday’s game against the New Jersey Devils, but it was an important step for what the Capitals hope to be a championship season with their prized deadline acquisition settling into the lineup.

“Made some real good poise plays in tight areas,” Barry Trotz said after the game. “He wasn't being safe, he was actually a little more relaxed. I think it was good.”

RELATED: Caps outlast Devils to set franchise record

Shattenkirk continued what has appeared to be a rather seamless transition into the Capitals lineup, playing a team-high 21:24, including a whopping 7:23 on the power play, in his first home game as a Capital.

“I think whenever there's more minutes, especially on a power play, for a guy like me it helps me,” Shattenkirk said. “Just feeling the puck and starting to kind of get that back into my game during a game.”

When a defenseman leads the team in ice time for a game just two games after being acquired by that team, it shows a remarkable level of confidence by the coaching staff. Talking to his teammates, it’s easy to see why Trotz feels that way.

“He doesn't have any holes in his game,” Carlson said. “There's adjustments for sure that he's dealing with … but I think [it] helps feeling a part of us right away and then his skills can shine.”

“He's patient, he's a smart player,” Braden Holtby said. “He's very skilled. Obviously everyone sees the skill but he played with two different D partners he has never played with before and he looks like they've played together all year.”

Shattenkirk played alongside Brooks Orpik on the third pair in Orpik’s return from a lower-body injury. Those two are expected to remain a pair into the playoffs and they looked to be in sync together right away, though there remain a few kinks to work out.

“I think I was almost the recipient of some of his hits,” Shattenkirk said. “He flies around out there and lays his body on the line. Little things that we have to work out ourselves, little plays together. But all around, I know that I have a solid guy back there who can really cover for me whenever I need him to.”

All of this should be music to the ears of Capitals fans who have seen a parade of deadline acquisitions fizzle in the Alex Ovechkin era as they were unable to adjust to their new team.

It may be a small sample size, but two games in there seems to be no growing pains at all for a player the Caps hope will be a major key in a championship run.

That enthusiasm is shared by the fans.

In the first period of a sleepy game on Thursday that offered little to cheer about, the fans gave Shattenkirk a thunderous ovation when he was shown on the video screen during a stoppage in play.

“I've known that this fan base is great and they've supported this team for a long time,” Shattenkirk said, “But even a little thing like that, for a guy like me who hasn't been here before, it was very special and meant a lot to me.”

MORE CAPITALS: Jakub Vrana's power-play goal puts Caps up 1-0 over Devils

Quick Links

NHL Power Rankings: The home stretch

USA Today Sports

NHL Power Rankings: The home stretch

We are down to the home stretch. Only 10 games remain in the Capitals' regular season. Those 10 games will ultimately decide if the Caps finish in first place in the Metropolitan Division and who they will play in the first round of the playoffs.

Washington currently sits in first place in the division, two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers. Of those 10 remaining games, only three come against teams currently in playoff position. The most critical of these comes on April 1 when the Caps travel to Pittsburgh in a game that could ultimately decide the division.

The Caps still hold a narrow lead in the standings, but where do they stand in the rankings? See this week's updated NHL Power Rankings here.

Quick Links

3 stars of the game: A lethargic loss in Philadelphia


3 stars of the game: A lethargic loss in Philadelphia

Playing three games in four days takes a toll on even the fittest athletes, and it was their sluggish start that doomed the Capitals in a 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. 

After being noncomittal about his starting goalie all weekend, Coach Barry Trotz put Philipp Grubauer in net. Grubauer ended up making 29 saves on 34 shots. Offensively, the Caps got goals from Alex Ovechkin, Chandler Stephenson, and John Carlson. Carlson's third period goal cut the Flyers' lead to two with a little over three minutes to go, but a Jakub Voracek empty-netter a few moments later was the nail in the coffin. 

Here are your three stars from the game: 

1. Travis Boyd had the play of the game for the Capitals. Boyd carried the puck into the Flyer's zone, cut through multiple defenders and fired a slick shot to a streaking Ovechkin, who burried the puck in the back of the net. Check it out: 

Not only was the play nice on its own, but it was Boyd's first NHL point. Not a bad way to get it. 

2. Shayne Gostisbehere​ got the Flyers going with his goal in the first period. The defenseman had one goal on five shots along with being an intimidating force in the defensive zone. After going six weeks without scoring, today's goal was Gostisbehere's second goal in three games. 

3. Wayne Simmonds was the best offensive player on the ice on Sunday, scoring twice - both in the final period. It was the 22nd and 23rd goals of the season for the 29-year-old winger. It was also the first multi-goal game for Simmonds since Opening Night, when he had two against San Jose. 

The Caps hit the ice next on Tuesday, when they welcome the Dallas Stars to the Capital One Center.