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Ovi 'looking forward' to working with Oates

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Ovi 'looking forward' to working with Oates

Lets face it. If Adam Oates is going to be successful as the new coach of the Capitals, his first order of business will be forging a strong relationship with Alex Ovechkin.

That process started shortly after Oates accepted his first head coaching job in the NHL on Tuesday when he received a congratulatory phone call from his 26-year-old captain.

I just talked to him briefly and he seems to be a great person, Ovechkin said during a break in the NHL Players Association meetings in Chicago. Im looking forward to working with him. Youre always excited when something big happens with your team.

I hope were going to work well and were going to play and were going to win I think.

After enjoying MVP seasons in 2008 and 2009 under Bruce Boudreau, Ovechkin admitted he felt handcuffed under Dale Hunters defense-first system last season, which encouraged strong defensive positioning and shot-blocking.

He says hes optimistic Oates will bring a fresh look to the Capitals that allows him to be more creative with the puck and re-ignite his game.

Its not blocking the shots and its not dump and chase, Ovechkin said. Any system that I play I learn a lot. Im an offensive guy, its not a secret to anybody, and Im pretty excited and very happy to hear the Caps signed that kind of guy who likes offense.

To his credit, Ovechkin adapted to Hunters system last season, but finished with a career-low 65 points and was at odds with the defensive posture Hunter took after the Capitals took a lead.

As the Devils assistant coach, Oates worked hard with Ilya Kovalchuk to broaden his game and Capitals associate coach Olie Kolzig said he believes he can have a similar impact on Ovechkins game.

The sheer fact Ovi reached out to Oatesy shows me that Alex is excited about having him as a coach, said Kolzig, who spent three years as Oates road roommate when they both played for the Capitals. Because Im sure Ovi talked to Kovalchuk about him. Maybe this is just the spark that he needs.

With the Devils, Oates encouraged Kovalchuk to make more give-and-go plays instead of trying to beat players one-on-one. Kolzig said he expects Oates to employ a similar tactic with Ovechkin.

Adam was the give-and go king, Kolzig said. That guy was unbelievable with the puck. Thats one thing he might try to get across to Ovi. Hey, instead of trying to beat guys one-on-one all the time, use Nicky Backstrom to your advantage.

Nicky is an Adam Oates-type player. He can make a pass with the best of them. Oatesy might ask Ovi to utilize the players on the ice to benefit himself instead of trying to beat everybody one-on-one.

Say this about Ovechkin. He made the first step in forming a good relationship with his new coach by pulling out his cell phone and giving Oates a call.

I think coaches and players have to have a good relationship, especially in the kind of situation where we have right now, said Ovechkin. Its nice.

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Key Caps questions: Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?

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USA TODAY Sports

Key Caps questions: Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?

Tarik: The term ‘Stanley Cup Hangover’ exists because, well, it’s a real thing. And the Caps, like all teams that battle into early June, are vulnerable to suffering from it next season.

Why? Think about it. No. 1, the core group just completed the longest season—106 games—of their lives (and, somewhere, the party is still going). No. 2, the top guys aren't exactly a bunch of spring chickens. No. 3, human nature.

A little more on that last one. Alex Ovechkin and Co. have spent the entirety of their professional hockey careers chasing Lord Stanley’s Cup. And now they have it. At long last. Hoisting the Cup was as much a moment to cherish as it was a gigantic relief for a team that had been labeled perennial underachievers. Shifting gears from that feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment back to hunger and determination is difficult.

Something else that worries me a bit? They don’t have experience dealing with a truncated offseason. Rest and recovery matter. And they aren’t going to get much of either this summer.

All that said, they don’t have to stumble through the 2018-19 season. If you're looking at things from the optimist's point of view, the Cup run did something for Ovechkin and his teammates that none of the previous failures could: It showed them EXACTLY what it takes to play deep into the spring.

Eleven out of 12 forwards from the championship squad are expected back. Five of six defensemen and the goalie are returning, as well. Sure, they’ve got a new head coach, but he’s been here for four years already, giving him a huge advantage over a bench boss who’s starting from scratch. So there’s continuity and chemistry already built in.

I look at it like this: The core guys who’ve been around a while—Ovechkin, Backstrom, Carlson, Holtby, etc.—have a rare opportunity before them. After coming up short for so many years, they’ve been gifted an extraordinary chance to make up for lost time over the next 12-24 months. In fact, Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Backstrom, Oshie, Eller, Carlson, Niskanen, Orlov, Kempny and Holtby have two more years together, as a core, before the next round of tough decisions will need to be made.

But it’s going to be up to them. Are they going to be satisfied with one Cup? Or will they get greedy? I’m betting on the latter.

Regan: The Capitals could enter next season hungry, motivated, in the right mindset, completely prepared in every way to avoid a Cup hangover and it may still happen. Why? Because the Capitals (and Vegas for that matter) will enter next season with less time to rest, recover and prepare after a grueling playoff run than any other team in the NHL.

First things first, no, I do not think the Caps will struggle because they are are partying too hard this summer and won't be ready for the start of the season.

It took a long time Washington to finally reach the top of the mountain. It won't be lost on Alex Ovechkin, or any of the veterans, that the year he came into training camp early and in really good shape, that was the year he was able to lead his team to the promised land. Considering all the struggles, all the early playoff exits, all the years it took to finally win, I expect the veterans will look at how they prepared last season and take that lesson to heart going into camp. Those players will enter the fall in as good a shape as the time they have this offseason will allow them to be.

But this team is not just composed of veterans of the Ovechkin era who suffered through all of those postseason struggles.

What about the youngsters? Will Jakub Vrana have the same motivation as Ovechkin or a Nicklas Backstrom to show up to camp ready next season? What about Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey? If any of the team's young players aren't exactly in "game shape" by the fall, they won't be the first and they certainly won't be the last to struggle with early career playoff success.

There's also a new head coach to consider. In a lot of ways, I think coming into the season with a new coach in Todd Reirden will help. I don't expect too much adjustment under a coach the team knows very well, but I do expect more motivation at the start of the regular season than you usually see from a team coming off a championship.

There are a lot of reasons why the Caps could actually avoid a Cup hangover, but the fact is that time puts them at a disadvantage. Even if they overcome all the other factors, there's nothing they can do to suddenly give themselves more time to recover and to train. For that reason alone, I do expect a few early-season struggles from the defending champs.

Other key questions

How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may have won the American Century Championships celebrity golf tournament this weekend, but T.J. Oshie definitely had the most fun.

Using the Modified Stableford scoring format for the tournament — which included several pro and retired athletes, such as Steph Curry, Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Charles Barkley and Joe Pavelski — Oshie finished with 11 points, tying for 48th with NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown and Golf Channel host Lisa Cornwell. 

But the Capitals' winger's score didn't really matter because Oshie was out on the Lake Tahoe golf course in Nevada just having fun with his family and continuing the epic celebration as a new Stanley Cup champion. Obviously, that meant playing and chugging a beer through his t-shirt as 'We Are The Champions' played.

His brother, Taylor, was his caddy, and at one point, Oshie borrowed his brother's beer helmet while putting. He sunk it, and it was amazing.

Yeah, Oshie had a great weekend. Here's a look at some other moments from his weekend on Lake Tahoe.

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