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Power Rankings: Caps turning scary in higher gear

by | CBSSports.com Staff Writer

Updated Nov. 8

It was no secret the Washington Capitals had a lot of pent-up frustration heading into the new season. Lately, it looks like it may be starting to explode. Obviously that's not good news for teams in the Eastern Conference, particularly since the Capitals were holding their own even while their high-powered offense was on cruise control.

Rookie Michal Neuvirth has been a huge net plus. (AP)  
Rookie Michal Neuvirth has been a huge net plus. (AP)  
Washington did not come charging out of the gate, though the Caps' 6-4 start was enough for them to keep pace in the East. But whatever success they were having early had as much to do with the league's top scoring machine relying on a heightened awareness of defense in the aftermath of last spring's playoff embarrassment against Montreal as anything else.

Washington was getting excellent netminding, though it just wasn't coming from the youngster who was supposed to be the No. 1 -- Semyon Varlamov has spent most of his time on the injured list. Instead Michal Neuvirth picked up the slack, enough to be named the league's top rookie for October and probably steal a game or two for his team.

And over the weekend, the Capitals unveiled another potential diamond in the rough when Braden Holtby made his NHL debut and scored wins over East powerhouses Boston -- in relief of Neuvirth -- and Philadelphia.

"It's quite a good luxury when you have really good players battling for spots," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau says. "But we're playing pretty good now."

Good enough to start the new week leading the East and riding a four-game winning streak. More important, for the first time this season the Caps have shown the explosiveness they are capable of, scoring 20 goals in that run without sacrificing defense. Meanwhile big guns like defenseman Mike Green and Alexander Semin have goals in each of those wins, while Alex Ovechkin has three goals and eight points for the run.

"We can compete against other teams," Boudreau said. "We're in the mix."

No kidding.

The rankings through Sunday night's games:


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