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It's no secret that the Washington Capitals have some of the most dynamic forwards in the game today in Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Semin.
What may be somewhat of a secret is how improved defensively this team is.
This season, the Caps were second in the Eastern Conference in goals allowed with 197—two more than Boston, who only allowed 195.
Comparing that with last season, the Caps allowed 233 goals, good for only seventh in the East.
In years past, star captain Alex Ovechkin has been an all-offense type of player.
While his point totals have been absolutely incredulous in recent seasons, come playoff time, Ovie's lack of defense caught up to him and the Caps.
This year, it may be easy to say that he had a down year.
However, I wouldn't say that by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I'd go so far as to say he had one of the most important seasons of his career.
Bruce Boudreau harped on the importance of defensive play after losing out in the playoffs somewhat early after great regular seasons, something the Great Eight has made a serious effort trying to improve.
Ovechkin set career highs in blocked shots, hits and nearly his lowest penalty-minute total of his career with 41 (40 in 2007-08), while still scoring 32 goals and 53 assists with a plus/minus of 24 in 79 games this season.
This is probably a play that went unnoticed amongst all the YouTube offensively-beautiful plays, but Nicklas Backstrom defines defense and heart on this play, one that will always be engraved in my mind.
It is this type of sacrifice that helps win championships.
Throw in the additions of Jason Arnott, Marco Sturm and Dennis Wideman and you have more players that reinforce this more defensive style of play, and it improved this Capitals team immensely.
Look for Washington to make a deep run this year to the Eastern Conference Finals.