"I think he knows how to treat the guys," Ovechkin said. "He was on the same page with us. He knows exactly what we need. Sometimes when we need days off, he gives us days off, or we just talk to him and he give us options. That kind of chemistry with him and relationship, it's working, so I'm pretty happy he's our coach."
Oates also got a special mention Wednesday on owner Ted Leonsis' blog.
"He is incredibly calm and positive," Leonsis said, "and has built a lot of confidence in our players and in his new system."
Oates is modest about the praise he's getting — yet fully aware that it's a reversal from what he was hearing from some pundits early in the season.
"I didn't have doubts about the way they could play and what I think it could turn into," he said. "The doubts, I think, came just because I was a first-year coach, and all the people out there that would jump on that. But I'm glad all the guys didn't listen to them."
Washington has two games remaining in the regular season to fine-tune the system before hosting Game 1 against a yet-to-be-determined opponent next week. Then it will be time to see if Oates can do something that Boudreau and Hunter couldn't — get the Capitals deep into the playoffs.
"It's the Stanley Cup, that's the only thing that matters," goaltender Braden Holtby said. "This is a step in the right direction, but we have a lot more work to do."
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