by Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – One could say the Capitals 6-4 defeat to the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks was a disappointing way to start the 2013-14 season, but head coach Adam Oates took a more positive approach with the narrow loss, telling his players it just proves they can play with the best in the world.

“The next day, that’s the first thing that came out of my mouth to the guys, is you know what? They’re the world’s best and we clearly could have won the game,” Oates told 106.7 The Fan’s Lavar and Dukes on Thursday. “If that’s the best in the world, then we can play with the best and we have to figure out ways to do that every single night.”

Alex Ovechkin struggled initially after being moved to the right side of the rink by Oates last season, but he eventually figured it out, and finished the year with 32 goals in a lockout-shortened 48-game season, to earn his third MVP honor. Oates was asked about the thought process of moving Ovi to the right wing position.

“Just watching him from before, almost as a fan, I’ve always had thoughts on the game the way I view it, and I think obviously he’s a two-time Hart Trophy winner but the game continues to evolve,” Oates said. “He’s our best player, so to me I wanted to get my best player the puck as many times as I could put it in his hands. The same way I want to do it with Backy and Greenie. I want those guys to touch it more than anybody. And changing his spot gave me the opportunity to do that.”

That said, Ovechkin will have to pick up where he left off the season if the Caps are to compete on a nightly basis in the new Metropolitan division,  a huge step up in competition, top to bottom, from Washington’s now defunct Southeast division.

“It’s amazing how over time, every division has its hot moments and then every division has its weak moments over a few-year period,” Oates said. “And I played in some tough ones and some easy ones, and at the end of the day you’ve got to play everybody, and in the playoffs you’ve got to play everybody. To stay in this league, you’ve got to figure out a way to do it all the time.

And most importantly, Oates’ thoughts on RGIII’s progress this season:

“I think he’s coming,” Oates said. “I think they’re trying to control him a little bit more, get out of that K-gun or whatever. I don’t think he should look to run, it should be scrambling, not a run play, but it looks like he’s trusting the leg more.”

“You’re a coach, would you have started him week one?” Chad Dukes asked.

“Absolutely,” Oates responded.


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