Photo: Patrick Smith
Wednesday morning, Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner was asked about the defensive pairing of Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov. They were both set to make their NHL playoff debuts in Game One of the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers. He paused halfway through his answer.
“You know, I’m just thinking, laughing in my head about Schmitty,” Alzner said. “He’s always so excited for a regular season game, I can’t imagine what he’s gonna be like for a playoff game. It’ll be fun.”
When game day arrived, I asked Schmidt how he would prepare for a game that Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said would have players excited “out of their skulls.”
Schmidt, however, was surprisingly mellow.
“I might throw them a curveball and just go completely silent tonight,” Schmidt said at the time.
The 24-year-old Minnesotan said he likes to control his enthusiasm before important games lest he wear himself before the puck is dropped.
“During the afternoon, I usually try not to get myself too fired up, especially before my nap,” Schmidt said. “You try to wire yourself up for 12 hours and honestly you’re burnt out by the time the game comes around. It’s like, wake up: calm. Get to the rink: excited. Lunch: calm it back down again, take a nap, and then ramp it back up again.”
He even eschews a typical pregame ritual for athletes.
“I don’t listen to music that much until we get to the rink,” Schmidt said. “Usually then it’s Ovi playing techno.”
Once game time rolls around, Schmidt needs needs no extra stimulants, though John Carlson typically shoves smelling salts into Schmidt nose despite his protests.
“Not like I need any more energy!” Schmidt quipped.
Schmidt’s Game One debut was far from ideal. He was benched halfway through the game, skating just over seven minutes. Trotz attributed the result to “match-ups.” Yet the next day, after a 2-0 Capitals win, Schmidt had a grin plastered on his face at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. A reporter asked him what happened the night before.
“With what?” Schmidt replied before being reminded of his ice time. “Oh, yeah. You know what, it was a good foundation.”
Despite taking just one shift in the latter half of the game, Schmidt’s place in the lineup seems secure for now. He skated in his typical spot next to Orlov Friday.
“If you were a fan and you just got the ability to sit on the bench, you would be smiling too,” Trotz said of Schmidt’s demeanor. “[He] just wants to see team success. When you just worry about yourself, it doesn’t seem to happen for those guys.”
Additional reporting by Katie Brown.
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