He’s ready. Are you? (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)
One-by-one, as they stepped off the ice and into the locker room at their Virginia practice facility, mic flags went flying into the faces of members of Washington Capitals. Tonight, the team will play its eighth game seven since the Ovechkin era began. Five of those games have ended with crushed looks on the faces of the boys from Arlington. The questions were obvious.
“The media is the only people that bring up the past,” Jason Chimera scoffed. “It’s history for a reason. We wanna make our own history tonight.”
“You kinda just throw it all out the window when you get on the ice,” he continued. “You just gotta play.”
Washington’s captain, Alex Ovechkin, agreed with the veteran winger.
“It was a long time ago,” he said of the team’s previous losses. “It’s a new year. It’s a different game.”
Chimera and Ovechkin’s focus on the present is correct. It’s been nearly two years since Washington’s last game seven. When the Capitals were routed by the New York Rangers on May 14, 2013, John Erskine got the third most ice time of any Capital and Mike Ribeiro picked up three shots on goal and 10 penalty minutes. The Capitals are a new team now, with a new coach, a new style of play, and a more levelheaded attitude. Ovechkin, still in pursuit of his first Stanley Cup at age 29, is more mature now. This team knows what it has it do. They may or may not succeed.
“It’s game seven,” Ovechkin told reporters. “It’s not about the jokes right now.”
That mood extended throughout the Capitals locker room on Monday morning. It was serious, but not tense. After six brutal games, each adding up to three wins for each side, the deciding match is only a few hours away.
“This morning, I don’t feel any different,” goalie Braden Holtby said. “It’s a game. Just let the work speak for itself. We don’t want to treat it any different than anything else or you’re gonna put too much pressure on yourself, you’re gonna make mistakes that you usually wouldn’t. Focus on every single play. Final buzzer goes, hopefully you’ve done the things to be successful.”
If the Caps do lose, Holtby can hold his head high on what the team has accomplished this season.
“We’ve come a long way,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of things that have improved our club. Either way, it’s been a success this year from the way we’ve played, from the way we’ve improved. This game is another chance to improve, to show what we can do, show that we’ve learned from our mistakes in the past.”
The Washington Capitals are going into tonight’s game calm and ready, whether the coin ultimately falls in their favor or not.
“If you lose, you go home,” Ovechkin said. “If you win, you play for a Stanley Cup. We just have to do our thing.”
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