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Power Rankings: Caps closing deal in style

by | CBSSports.com Staff Writer

Updated March 28

You couldn't blame Braden Holtby for wondering what a guy has to do to stick in the NHL.

The 21-year-old Washington goaltender recorded a 2-0 shutout in the unfriendly confines of Montreal's Bell Centre on Saturday, a day after he was recalled from the minors. So naturally the Caps sent him back the next day.

Scott Hannan (left) and the Caps haven't missed a beat with star Alex Ovechkin (right) sidelined. (AP)  
Scott Hannan (left) and the Caps haven't missed a beat with star Alex Ovechkin (right) sidelined. (AP)  
At least this time, it wasn't after the impressive rookie had been named the player of the week. Holtby earned that distinction midway through March, and all told he has gone 10-2-2 with a 1.79 goals-against average in appearances for Washington. Still, he will be back riding the buses because the Capitals have a couple of other young goalies with double-digit win totals in Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov, who remain ahead of him on the depth chart.

It's a nice situation to be in for a team that began the season as a legitimate Stanley Cup hopeful and then spent the next three months trying to redefine its identity. Washington's success in the past few years has been triggered by an explosive Alex Ovechkin-led offense, a formula that worked wonders during the regular seasons but produced major disappointment in the playoffs.

So this season has been all about committing to play the kind of defense needed to win games in the spring. The offense, particularly the power play, has suffered, and the overall transition has been a struggle at times.

In the past month, though, Washington seems to have figured things out, going 12-2 while taking control of the Southeast Division again. And lately they have been doing it without big guns like Ovechkin, Mike Green and veteran Jason Arnott, who came at the trade deadline and has been one of several savvy pickups by GM George McPhee.

All three are expected back shortly, in plenty of time for the long playoff run the Caps are expecting.

"Right now, it doesn't matter who's in the lineup," center Nicklas Backstrom said. "We're a hard-working club, and when we do that and we do our forecheck right, it's kinda tough to stop us."

Looks that way. The rankings through Sunday night's games:


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