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Alex Ovechkin is prepared to adjust his game for the playoffs

Alex Ovechkin is prepared to adjust his game for the playoffs

At 31 years old, Alex Ovechkin is now closer to the end of his than the start. He is still one of the top offensive players in the league, but there have been fewer highlight goals this season for the Great 8 and that’s just fine with him.

One of the keys Barry Trotz has emphasized all season long to the Caps is the importance of “dirty” goals. That is a message that has clearly sunk in for Ovechkin.

“I think right now if you didn't put puck in, you didn't score, you have to do something to create some moments,” Ovechkin said, “Create some chances to, it doesn't matter, Osh or Backy or whatever, who's on your line. Sometimes you just have to do that kind of stuff.”

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Those are strong words from the greatest goal scorer of his generation, but it reflects the adjustment we have seen Ovechkin try to make to his game this season and what he has learned from his own playoff experience.

Even for a player like Ovechkin, goals are hard to come by in the playoffs. It’s the dirty goals that will decide a series. As Washington begins another quest for the Cup, Ovechkin knows he needs to work at getting those dirty goals for the team to have success.

“It's time right now to start concentrate on different things than shooting the puck,” Ovechkin said, “Because you can see there's not going to be beautiful goals out there. Maybe one in the whole series. But it's going to be dirty one, you know? You have to be around the net. You have to win the battles. Throw it on net, find the rebound, make traffic and create those second chances.”

That sounds like eight playoff appearances worth of experience talking.

As the Capitals prepare to face a very skilled and very young Toronto team, it’s fair to wonder if that is a lesson the Leafs understand yet or if they will soon learn in their fist taste of postseason hockey.

MORE CAPITALS: A look back at Caps pre-season predictions

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T.J. Oshie puts on a memorable performance in 300th game as a Capital

T.J. Oshie puts on a memorable performance in 300th game as a Capital

300 games. 108 goals. 108 assists.

Just so you're tracking, those are T.J. Oshie's stats through 300 games as a member of the Washington Capitals.

In an outstanding 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers, Oshie scored two power play goals. It was the second time in his career that Oshie recorded two such goals.

Another shot on goal — he had four in the game — would have put him at a nice-and-even 620 during his tenure with the Capitals, but hey, we can't all be perfect.

The statistical-evenness is certainly satisfying, but even if you're not a fan of quirky stats, the man has logged 216 points in 300 games. That's pretty darn good.

T.J. Oshie will seek to continue putting up great numbers as the Capitals embark on a two-week road trip. Their first stop will be Sunday in Chicago for a showdown against the Blackhawks.

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A return six months in the making for defenseman Michal Kempny

A return six months in the making for defenseman Michal Kempny

It took six months of toil and effort for Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny to make it back to an NHL game. 

He last played March 20 when a torn hamstring in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning ended his season just a few weeks before the Stanley Cup playoffs began. That was brutal. 

A spring to heal after surgery, a summer to rehab the injury and weeks getting back in hockey shape were the steep price paid. And then it took him all of 15 minutes to score his first goal on Friday in a game against the New York Rangers. Welcome back, Michal. 

“I felt pretty good, actually. My legs felt good,” Kempny said. “Obviously not an easy situation for me. But I got to say just thank you to all of the staff, whole organization, my teammates, my family, my friends who were supporting me all the way through here and help me. It means a lot to me.”

It was an organizational project. Kempny meant so much to Washington during its Stanley Cup run of 2018. The Capitals felt his absence on the top pair with John Carlson during the first-round series loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Washington coach Todd Reirden credited team trainers Jason Servis and Mike Booi and strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish with putting Kempny in position to return early in the season.  

“Six months of investment of their time to get him back,” Reirden said. “I thought Michal looked really good.”

The goal came at 15:16 of the first period and gave Washington a 2-1 lead. Kempny jumped onto a loose pucked batted around by teammate Alex Ovechkin, quickly corralled it and beat Henrik Lundqvist for the goal. It was a pretty play and another indication that Capitals' defensemen are taking chances when they see them on the offensive end. 

In his first game back, Kempny had 14:24 of ice time. That’s about the goal the Capitals had in mind for him. He started on the third pair with fellow Czech Radko Gudas, but also played 3:42 with Carlson, who mobbed Kempny after his goal and gave him a celebratory facewash with his glove. They’re happy to have him back. 

“I just grab the puck and there was open net, so a little lucky for me,” Kempny said. “I was just excited.”

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