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Stanley Cup Final

Caps excited about historic start

Sunday, 10.23.2011 / 6:57 PM / NHL Insider

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

George McPhee's diligence during the offseason is paying early dividends for the scorching-hot Washington Capitals.

The Caps GM has to be all smiles as his summer additions -- including goaltender Tomas Vokoun and forwards Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer -- have helped Washington get off to a 7-0-0 start, the best in franchise history. The Capitals made it seven straight on Saturday night, when they crushed the previously-unbeaten Detroit Red Wings by a 7-1 score at the Verizon Center.

"I think we've stepped up to the challenges … this was a big week for us and we knew that coming into it," said Green, who had 2 goals and 2 assists Saturday. "We're definitely happy where we are, but we still have a lot of work to do."

Tomas Vokoun
Goalie - WSH
RECORD: 6-0-0
GAA: 1.80 | SVP: 0.944
Vokoun struggled in his Caps debut -- a 6-5 shootout victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 10 -- but has been phenomenal ever since. The 35-year-old, who was signed at a bargain price of $1.5 million for one year, is now 6-0-0 with a 1.80 goals-against average and .944 save percentage.

Signing with Washington was a much-needed change of scenery for Vokoun, who never qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs during his four-year tenure with the Florida Panthers despite the fact that he never had a GAA higher than 2.68.

"It feels pretty good," Vokoun said of the 7-0-0 start. "Obviously, I'm not accustomed to that feeling. It's great. We work hard, we play hard. Obviously, we're getting the rewards. We've got all the talent. There's things we obviously want to be a little bit better at, but with this talent, we're able to sometimes escape."

"He's been great ever since the 15-minute mark of the second game," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said of his goaltender. "He's been outstanding. He's no spring chicken. He's got some experience."

Perhaps the most amazing aspect to the Caps' start is the fact that everyone is contributing. Fourteen different players had their names etched on the score sheet Saturday night against the Wings. Of the seven who scored, none of them were named Alex Ovechkin, although the Russian superstar did chip in with a pair of assists.

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Dennis Wideman, who finished with 40 points last season between Florida and Washington, has notched a point in all seven games thus far and finds himself tied for second in scoring on the team with Ovechkin. Nicklas Backstrom leads the Caps with 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists).

"It shows that we got a lot of depth and everyone can score every night," said forward Mathieu Perreault, who has 5 points (3 goals, 2 assists) in as many games. "It makes our team pretty tough to play against. You got to get out there with four lines ready to go every night because our four lines are ready to go every night. It feels pretty good right now."

As it should. After last Tuesday's 3-0 win against the Panthers, Boudreau said his team faced a big test with games against Philadelphia and Detroit. Not only did the Caps win both games, but they outscored those formidable opponents by a combined score of 12-3 along the way.

The challenges will keep coming for the Caps, as they head to Western Canada later this week to face the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday before last season's President's Trophy winners and Western Conference champs, the Vancouver Canucks, host them Saturday night.

"So far we've passed it, I think," Boudreau said of the early tests. "But now it's just getting ready for next week. We've got the team that was the best in the League. So it'll be another test -- on the road -- and they're starting to play like they were last year. Every day is a different challenge if you look at it that way, and that's how I tend to look at it. Every day you wake up and there's new challenges and you just find new inspiration to make it exciting.

"There's a lot of games left … 75 games."   

There's also some time off in between contests. By the time Thursday's showdown at Edmonton arrives, the Caps will have had a full five days off. Whether that hurts their momentum remains to be seen, but they'll surely arrive at Rexall Place as one confident bunch.

"I guess right now, we don't really have a choice," said Ward, who has 2 goals and 2 assists in his first seven games with his new club. "We're definitely going to have to regroup and this is going to be a big road challenge for us, playing against a couple of good teams out West. We're just excited to keep playing. We just want to keep playing and believing in one another. 

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

Material from team media was used in this report.

For me, it's a great win for our hockey team and for a lot of people back in Columbus, especially our fans in particular … people who have been devoted to this organization, it's big.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards on their win vs. the Penguins in Game 2, the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff victory