With only 48 games to play this season, it's going to be a time crunch for any coaching staff to scout another team's system. For the Capitals, that could give them the element of surprise. Head coach Adam Oates will have only a week to implement his system to his group of players. But as far as opposing teams scouting that system, it could take them 10 to 15 games to recognize it and to play effectively against Oates' system. In a shortened season such as this one, those first few games could be key for the Caps to find success.
A couple of factors go into the surprise element for the Capitals. The first will be Oates has never been a head coach in the NHL. While he probably has had say in how the New Jersey Devils played in some areas, Pete DeBoer was the head coach and had final say in what went on the ice. That leaves the elements that Oates would have like to implement if he were head coach. If opposing teams want to study the tape of the Devils to gauge how the Capitals might look this season will have to concede that it's DeBoer's system and not Oates'.
Along those same lines, if the opposing teams want to study tape of how the Devil's power play preformed under Oates' supervision they won't see Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green or Nick Backstrom on that tape. With a different personnel group (and a much better talented one in my opinion) infused in that same system, there are going to be differences. From who sets up the play to who shoots the open shot, the Caps' system under Oates will look strikingly different.
Most, not all, teams in the NHL when faced with a new system often fall back and play that team conservatively. With some teams dropping back to play the Caps defensively minded, the boys in red, white and blue might be able to steal a few extra games early. That is key to setting up for a run to the playoffs with only 48 games on the schedule.