- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 6, 2011

Storylines surrounding the 2011-12 Washington Capitals.

1. Wake me up when the regular season ends: Even if the Capitals finish first in the Eastern Conference and look downright invincible in the regular season, skeptics will question playoff success. These players can’t exorcise those demons until April and beyond.

But owner Ted Leonsis doesn’t want to just hit the fast-forward button.

“We want to make sure that we never fall into ‘the regular season doesn’t matter.’ The regular season’s very, very important,” he said last month. “It’s where you develop the habits that take you into the playoffs and carry you in the playoffs.”

2. Ovechkin back at it: Injuries hampered the captain’s 2010-11 season, and yet he still managed 32 goals and 53 assists. If that is his minimum level of production, a healthy Ovechkin could be scary.

He’d like to be better defensively, but Ovechkin seeks a return to some impressive numbers.

“My goal is to score goals, create some dangerous moments and find my partners so they find moments to score goals,” he said.

3. Johansson center of attention: Coach Bruce Boudreau loves to juggle his lines, so it might not last long, but Marcus Johansson won’t start the season as the No. 1 center, even though he spent much of training camp there.

Johansson felt a burden of proof being in that spot, but this past week Boudreau wanted to send a “message” after some lackluster perfromances.

“I just want Marcus to be Marcus and play the way that he showed us the last half of last year and that’ll be more than enough than we need: using his great speed, using his passing and vision ability,” the coach said. “If he does that, then that’s more than enough for us.”

4. Vokoun fitting in: At 35 years old, Tomas Vokoun has a set pattern for how he approaches the regular season. But this is a new town and team for him after four seasons with the Florida Panthers.

The adjustment period will go beyond the preseason, as goaltending coach Dave Prior said he was still in a “learning stage.”

“I’m still studying his game so I can try to identify things that he may want to focus on,” Prior said. “When you’re trying to help a goaltender stay in his game, it’s important you know what he does in situations. That’s where it’s going to take some time.”

Vokoun figuring out communication with his defensemen also is something that will be a major point early on.

5. Left-Right, Left-Right: When healthy, the Caps have the ideal blue line for Boudreau - three left-handed defensemen and three right-handed defensemen. From there, the combinations can vary, assuming the shutdown pairing of Karl Alzner (righty) and John Carlson (lefty) stick together.

With lefties Roman Hamrlik, Jeff Schultz and John Erskine thinking defense first and righties Mike Green and Dennis Wideman adding some offense, the mix seems good. Green and Wideman also can star at the point on the power play, something that could help a much-maligned area for the Caps.

“Hamrlik, too. Hamrlik’s good on the point, too - and Carlson,” Wideman pointed out. “When you have depth like that, then you can go hard for 50 seconds and then change. I think it’ll make our power play that much better.”

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