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Those details are far from perfect a third of the way through the season.

“You can sense there’s certain place over there that they’re still hesitant,” Elias said of the Caps. “And I’m sure that they work on it, they look at it, a lot of videos. And that helps. But it’s up to the guys to really, really kind of buckle down and just pay the price. Sometimes it’s not easy and sometimes you think that individual stats might go out of it. But you look at it: If you play that way and you really believe in that system you get rewarded.”

The rewards came in bunches for the Devils, from the Prince of Wales Trophy as Eastern Conference champions to Ilya Kovalchuk’s successful transformation from left to right wing. Struggles filled the early days in New Jersey, too, something the Caps can take solace in.

“I think you go through your learning curves. You have new guys that don’t know the system or are new,” Clarkson said. “But whenever you have a new coach, that’s going to happen. Same there in Washington. They have a new coach and it’s a shortened season and Oatesy’s a smart, smart hockey guy.

“It takes a little bit of time. We went through some bumps in the road last year with the new coach, but I think once you get through those hurdles and bumps in the road you come out a better team, and we showed that by how we did.”