The Washington Capitals came back to Capital One Arena with a 2-0 series lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning to kick off the Eastern Conference Final.
From there, things went south; Washington dropped two straight at home, and in a Game 5 filled with defensive errors, bouncing pucks and lack of offense, the Capitals find themselves facing elimination heading into game 6. However, despite the stats, as well as the final scores and the current situation, the group is remaining positive.
“Nobody say it going to be easy,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “We was ready for it. Nobody going to give up.”
Washington will look to keep their playoff run alive Monday as they square off against Tampa Bay for Game 6. They’ve dropped their last three games, due to critical Tampa Bay goals and failed penalty kills. However, they will look to put the past behind them and still believe in the group.
Capitals Have Faith in Group
Heading into the postseason, and more especially heading into the Eastern Conference Final, the Capitals were considered to be underdogs. Despite capturing yet another Metropolitan Division championship, Washington had a young roster, featuring the likes of still up-and-coming prospects and first-year rookies.
So far through these playoffs, however, the Capitals have been silencing their critics and exorcising demons of their past, including finally defeating Pittsburgh in the second round and making it to the third round for the first time in 20 years. And while being considered the underdog helps, defenseman Brooks Orpik said it’s something of a silent motivator.
“I don’t think it’s something that collective we rally around,” Orpik said. “I think everybody kind of used it as a personal motivation to prove people wrong.”
Individually, many of the Capitals have stepped up in this postseason. The Capitals are getting strong showings from their top players in Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Braden Holtby, but have also gotten strong showings from players all the way down the lineup.
Dmitry Orlov has been perhaps the Capitals’ top defenseman, creating plenty of scoring chances and getting the puck up the ice to create scoring chances while also being strong on the backcheck. Additionally, Lars Eller despite too many penalties through Games 3 and 4 has been outstanding; he easily filled the void left by an injured Nicklas Backstrom and has been one of the main catalysts on offense.
While these individual performances have helped the team significantly, the Capitals have rallied around the group in the locker room, a team that has a strong bond and where every player knows their role.
“We have enough experience in this room that everybody knows this is what we’re going to have to do,” Eller said. “We’ve overcome big challenges these last couple weeks in the playoffs with this team. I got plenty of confidence in the team.”
Capitals No Strangers to Adversity
Through Washington’s playoff run this postseason, the team has had to overcome many different obstacles. The Capitals trailed 2-0 in their first series against Columbus and had to fight back to win the series in six. Against Pittsburgh, they had to compete in a back-and-forth tilt and eventually came out on top in overtime in Game 6.
Now, they face elimination, but considering what they’ve been through, they remain confident they can overcome whatever comes at them.
“For us, we’ve had a lot of twists and turns, even in our first series,” Backstrom said. “It’s just another layer of adversity. This group has taken on any adversity that has been thrown its way all years, hasn’t shied away from it.”
Ovechkin agreed, saying that the Capitals has seen similar scenarios play out all season and that they are aware that nothing comes easy in the postseason.
“It is what it is. We not gonna look back, we just going to look forward,” Ovechkin said. “There’s different guys who have been in different situations all year. We fight through it… we’re still going to have fun, we’re still going to enjoy it and we’ll see what happens.”
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.