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NHL Power Rankings: Capitals remain the class of the division

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NHL Power Rankings: Capitals remain the class of the division

Saturday’s game between the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets was built up as a battle for first place. It didn’t take long for Washington show that they remain the class of the division as the Caps walked away with an emphatic 4-0 win.

The  Metropolitan Division is just plain bad this year. New Jersey and Philadelphia are surprisingly atrocious, Carolina is still a player or two (and a goalie) away from being a playoff team, the Rangers will go only as far as Henrik Lundqvist can carry them, the Islanders have made great strides under Barry Trotz but are nowhere close to contending and this looks like Pittsburgh’s weakest team since the Mike Johnston era.

At this point, the only two teams that look like clear playoff teams are Washington and Columbus and even that may be a stretch depending on how the Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky situation pans out for the Blue Jackets.

There’s still a lot of hockey left to play this season, but the Caps made an early statement on Saturday that they remain the team to beat in the Metro and no one looks anywhere close to challenging them at this point.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Here are a few observations from the past week:
•    Tom Wilson provided one heck of a spark when he returned from suspension. The way the Caps responded to his injury with two wins on the road is impressive and says a lot about this team’s mental makeup and resiliency, even more so than how they rallied after Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie both came out of the lineup.
•    Is Kuznetsov all the way back? He just does not seem like the same player who dazzled us in the first month of the season. Yes, he has a five-game point streak, but he is not dominating the game the same way. Earlier in the season, his talent was evident every time he stepped onto the ice. Whenever Connor McDavid is on the ice, you notice him. Whenever Nathan MacKinnon is on the ice, you notice him. That was true of Kuznetsov early on, but has not been true since he returned to the lineup.
•    Oshie is skating which means he is making progress, but the team should take a slow approach to his return. After he suffered a concussion last year from a hit by Joe Thornton, he did not play well when he returned for quite a while. The Caps are winning and are in first place, there’s no reason to really rush him back.
•    The power play is starting to become a major concern. The loss of Oshie certainly hurts, but that unit was starting to struggle even before the game in Winnipeg in which he was injured. When watching the Columbus game on Friday, someone asked Alan May what he thought the problem was and he said zone entries. There’s definitely something to that. The power play still looks as deadly as ever when the team sets it up, but it seems like they are having a real tough time just getting to that point. They just cannot get the puck into the offensive zone and keep possession.

Even with Wilson, Oshie and Orpik out, the Caps keep finding ways to win and that his them climbing up the rankings.

FIND OUT WHERE THEY LAND IN THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS.

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Trade acquisition Brenden Dillon ‘couldn’t be happier’ to be joining Capitals

Trade acquisition Brenden Dillon ‘couldn’t be happier’ to be joining Capitals

The Capitals made their first significant trade of the season on Tuesday, acquiring defenseman Brenden Dillon from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2020 second-round pick and a conditional 2021 third.

Dillon, who’s spent the last six seasons with the Sharks, was emotional Monday night when asked for his thoughts on potentially playing his last game with San Jose. He choked up during his answer and had to walk away from the media scrum to collect himself.

The mood was a bit different Tuesday when Dillon found out he’d be heading to D.C. to play with the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals.

“I’m really excited,” Dillon said. “I can’t wait to get out there. I mean obviously the opportunity, the team, the group, what an opportunity.”

The Capitals have been widely rumored to be seeking a defenseman to bolster their blue line and Dillon was an attractive piece as Washington didn’t have to part with a first-round pick in order to get him. After losing six of their last nine games, the Capitals are looking for a spark—and Dillon can’t wait to help get them back on track.

“It’s been crazy, it really has,” Dillon said. “I think just mentally, guys can say, ‘You don’t read this or don’t read that.’ But it wears on you for sure and I’ve just kinda tried to bring the lunch pail to work every day and do my job. But definitely couldn’t be happier to get going.”

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Looking back at an incredible scrap between Garnet Hathaway and Brenden Dillon, now Capitals teammates

Looking back at an incredible scrap between Garnet Hathaway and Brenden Dillon, now Capitals teammates

It might be a little awkward for Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway when Brenden Dillon walks into the building for the first time.

Back in March of 2018, when Hathaway played for the Calgary Flames and Dillon was a member of the San Jose Sharks, the two engaged in a very even tilt that lasted close to a minute long.

Now, they are teammates.

NBC Sports Washington's Craig Laughlin tweeted out a video of the 2018 fight between the then-Calgary and Sharks players upon hearing the news of Washington's newest addition.

The two were both given five-minute penalties for the fight. The Sharks won that game, 5-1. 

Washington traded for Dillon on Tuesday, hoping to bolster their blue line by adding the physical defenseman. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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