By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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Dale Hunter's 2012 team flipped a switch when the playoffs began. Adam Oates' team showed in Game 1 against the Rangers that nothing changed from the regular season.
The Capitals' reputation as a team that can't get it done in the playoffs is well-established. Here's a look at how each playoff exit happened, with some help from ex-coach Bruce Boudreau.
After a victory late in the regular season that included two goals by Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom was asked if it felt like the "good old days" when the franchise cornerstones powered a high-scoring team. "It depends how it is in the playoffs," he said. "And we weren't that successful in the playoffs in the past."
Putting the 27-year-old offensive superstar into all-around situations is what the Caps' coach called "part of evolving his game." Oates won't treat Ovechkin like a liability in one-goal games like Dale Hunter did. Instead, he relies on Ovechkin in all situations.
Most of these Washington Capitals players aren't used to needing to climb the standings to get into playoff contention.
Ovechkin still enjoys scoring goals, but he's no longer the kid at Christmas he used to be. The goals don't come quite as easily anymore, at least not often enough to drown out the wave of criticism around him.
Erskine has consistently played in a top-four role this season, making the most out of his clean slate during the Adam Oates regime.
While an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils, Adam Oates watched the Washington Capitals' playoff series against the New York Rangers with a careful eye. The Devils were set to face the winner, so Oates got the chance to watch goaltender Braden Holtby's standout performance.
When the Washington Capitals are on, they're a thing of beauty to watch.
There was a reason why when Adam Oates learned the NHL lockout was ending, he and his coaching staff sprinted to the Washington Capitals’ offices to get ready for the season. Time was short and the to-do list was long. That was on full display in the Capitals’ 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday to open the season.
In last year's playoffs, Ovechkin saw as his ice time dip as low as 13 minutes and 36 seconds, even as he was scoring goals and helping the Washington Capitals win. That was under Dale Hunter, who put an emphasis on defensive play. Don't expect any of that from new coach Adam Oates, who could be the perfect guy to take Ovechkin's career back to superstar levels.
This was the decade of Alexander Semin. He spent over 10 years as Washington Capitals property, from the draft in 2002 until Thursday's signing with the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Washington Capitals are getting the band back together.
The Washington Capitals handed defenseman Mike Green a three-year, $18.25 million contract in hopes that he can recapture his past brilliance.
In late October, it looked like Jay Beagle's season would be measured by Arron Asham's right fist and the ensuing concussion suffered in a fight. By mid-May, Beagle's season was the shining example of what worked for the Washington Capitals with Dale Hunter hockey.
After winning Game 6 back home, the Caps lost 2-1 in Game 7, and Hunter two days later announced he wouldn't be back.
Everyone knew the Washington Capitals needed a different approach when Dale Hunter announced he wasn't returning.