When Adam Oates was hired to replace Dale Hunter as head coach of the Capitals two summers ago, two of his goals were to turn Alex Ovechkin back into a scoring machine and convince his team to be responsible defensively.

With 48 goals Ovechkin is on pace to win his second straight Rocket Richard trophy, but he is also an NHL-worst minus-36 on a team that has been outscored 149-126 in 5-on-5 play.

As a result, the Capitals may finish the season with the league’s leading goal scorer but out of the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

The biggest reason? Their team defense.

The Caps rank 12th in the NHL in goals scored this season [217] and 25th in goals allowed [231]. Their minus-14 goal differential ranks 20th in the league.

So are the Caps any better defensively today than they were two years ago?

“I think you have to ask him that question,” Caps defenseman Mike Green said, referring to Oates. “As players we just try to get better each day.