Capitals making steady progress

Updated: February 3, 2013, 12:36 PM ET
By Craig Custance

WASHINGTON -- There was a moment during the Washington Capitals' 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night when Adam Oates could stop coaching. Behind the Capitals bench, he didn't need to remind his players what they had to do next within the framework of his system. They were doing it themselves.

"One of the most gratifying things last night was listening to guys speak on the bench so you don't have to," Oates said following an optional practice on Saturday in which few players exercised their choice to rest. "I really saw signs of that last night. Guys commenting on what to do next. The enthusiasm that that brings, which means obviously we're having a little bit of success."

A little bit that needs to continue to grow if the Capitals are going to climb out of the 2-5-1 hole they've dug for themselves at the start of this shortened season.

The Caps' slow start is the result of a number of factors. Yes, Alex Ovechkin hasn't scored at the pace in which he's expected, but that alone is survivable. They're playing without forward Brooks Laich and defenseman Dmitry Orlov, both injured during the lockout. Of the remaining defensemen, not one played competitive hockey during the lockout, resulting in the development of bad habits and less than ideal conditioning. All teams are dealing with injuries and conditioning issues on some level right now. But with the Capitals, there's something more.