After winning Game One in overtime against the Boston Bruins, the Washington Capitals lost four consecutive games and were eliminated in the first round of the postseason for the third consecutive year.
The cornerstones of the Capitals, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, spoke to the press after Game Five as well as head coach Peter Laviolette – the veteran, Stanley Cup-winning head coach that was hired to get the team deeper in the postseason.
The coach and his players touched on what went wrong, addressed the suspicion that many of the Capitals’ stars were playing hurt, and spoke about the floundering power play. They also struggled to accept the team’s fate after finishing the regular season with the fifth-most standings points in the NHL.
“Nobody wants to lose right?” Ovechkin said. “We try to do best that we can. Obviously we can do better. It sucks. It’s a bad feeling when you have a pretty good team.”
Here’s what the Capitals had to say after the game.
Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom
What went wrong?
Alex Ovechkin: “It was a tight series, interesting series. We play three games in overtime. Bad luck, tough bounce. They get two out of three. Fourth game, you know, they were pressuring us and we knew we had to play better. We didn’t play our way fourth game. I thought tonight we had a pretty good game, but just didn’t score goals. You can see how many shots we have, how many chances. They use their chances. Overall, I think it was a good series. It was interesting series to play. It was a tough loss but it’s hard.”
There was speculation that a lot of key players were hurt? How banged up was the team?
Nicklas Backstrom: “We all played. I feel like at this time of year everyone on every team have players that’s banged up. There’s no real excuses there.”
At one point you guys were leading 30 to 13 in shots but were trailing 2-0. What was going through your mind at that point?
Nicklas Backstrom: “Obviously we had more shots than them. I feel like we, overall in this series, struggled getting to the net. They were doing a good job defending over the series. They’re a good hockey team. We had trouble scoring. That’s just it.”
Alex, your contract is expiring. How confident are you that things will be worked out and you’ll remain with the team?
Alex Ovechkin: “We just lost a playoff series. Let’s talk about my contract and stuff later on.”
What are your emotions with losing three years in a row?
Alex Ovechkin: “We play all season long for Stanley Cup. It’s hard to lose. Nobody wants to lose right? We try to do best that we can. Obviously we can do better. It sucks. It’s a bad feeling when you have a pretty good team. Two good teams play against each other. You can see all the games were tight games, obviously. Sometimes bad bounce, bad luck. That was on our side. We down. But overall, we have too much confident group and we was always believe in each other even 2-0 we thought we could come back because we have lots of games we was down two, three goals. We never thought we were out. We always believe each other and I think they had one shot and scored one goal. After that, we still fighting. We don’t give up. We try to tie the game and go to overtime.”
When a series like this ends do you wonder how many more opportunities this leadership group has?
Nicklas Backstrom: “Every year you get a chance of winning. It’s just a matter of how we play out there. That’s pretty much the answer for that. Every time you lace up the skates when the season starts, you have a chance at it. That’s what we believe.”
Nicklas, you thought some changed needed to be made on the power play after Game Four. Did those work out?
Nicklas Backstrom: “I feel like we started off, we were struggling with the breakouts. That was an area we struggled against them all series. We just had a tough time getting into the zone. I think if you look at tonight, we’re trying to get the puck to the net a little bit more and create those secondary chances. In the third period, we had two power plays. We had some shots there. We obviously have to do a better job on the power play. Just look at Game Four. They scored three PPGs there. That’s a game changer. That’s obviously an area we should have been better at and have to take advantage, especially with that many opportunities. Usually that doesn’t happen in playoffs, but this year it did.”
The interference on Tuukka Rask when Kuzy pushed him in the blue paint. Did you see that? Did you ask him what happened there?
Alex Ovechkin: “To be honest with you I didn’t see what happened out there. I didn’t see the replay. I think he was talking to Lavy to get challenge or not. I didn’t see what happened out there to be honest with you, man.”
What was the difference in the series, Peter?
Peter Laviolette: “The first three games were tight games. They could have went either way. In hindsight, we’re not going to like how we played the fourth game. Tonight our guys, they tried, they competed. We worked to play tight defensively, we worked to create. The effort was there. Game Four, we’ll look back on and be disappointed about. But the first three games were a flip of the coin and tonight we couldn’t get it done.”
At one point you guys were leading 30 to 13 in shots but were trailing 2-0. What’s going through your mind at that point?
Peter Laviolette: “I thought our guys played hard tonight. They capitalized on the chances they got. The chances were good in the second period. Their shots were heavy. The zone time, the volume was good. And you walk away and you’re down 2-0 in that period. That’s a little bit frustrating. That’s kind of the series went. There were times that I thought we were good and weren’t able to capitalize. We weren’t able to produce. At the end of the day, you have to produce and put goals up on the board.”
Kuzy pushed Rask and Eller’s goal was overturned. What happened there?
Peter Laviolette: “I saw pretty much what you saw. I think it was ruled a goal on the ice and got overturned. And they said no goal, which put it on our court. If it would have stayed a goal, it would have been in the [NHL’s] court. If we would have challenged it, I don’t think it would have gone our way and so we didn’t challenge it. It looked like the contact came from us and that caused the disruption in the crease. At that point, we still had some power play time left, we couldn’t afford to take a penalty from there. We’re down in the game already. It’s a call we would have lost and been in the penalty box.”
How much did injuries play a role in the series? How banged up were the Caps?
Peter Laviolette: “You wish you were 100 percent. I don’t know if any team is 100 percent. We had guys ready to go. We didn’t get it done. It’s disappointing. Injuries are a part of the game and that’s not an excuse.”
Why didn’t you get more scoring? How do you look at it?
Peter Laviolette: “It’s probably a combination of everything. For a team, we scored pretty consistently for the entire year. We get into the playoffs, there’s always a spot in the year where you can’t for a touch score. We didn’t really have that. And then we get into this round. You got to give credit to the way Boston played. You have to give some credit to the goaltender. There’s got to be some responsibility on our end to push more. At the end of the day, it wasn’t good enough. There’s a lot of things you need to move on and continue to move on. Offense is one of them and we weren’t able to get that done.”
Do you feel like this team had the capability to go much farther than this?
Peter Laviolette: “Yeah. You leave the regular season, you finish in the top five, top six, wherever we landed. There’s always those expectations to move on. That’s the reason why you do it. That’s the reason why you grind through the regular season and do the best you can to get an opportunity in the playoffs. So with regard with that, it’s definitely disappointing. There’s not question. There’s not a person in the room who isn’t disappointed.”
How much good hockey is left in these core guys?
Peter Laviolette: “Those are questions that you have to think about with regard to where your team’s at. The guys that were here, the core guys you’re talking about, are a big reason why we had the success in the regular season that we did. They are terrific players. They’ve been terrific players here. I think we’re all frustrated with the playoffs because we weren’t able to move past the Bruins and get into the second round. There’s frustration, so I think everything gets looked at and evaluated, but those guys have been the cornerstone of this team for a long time and they were a cornerstone for this team in the regular season.”
Sammy got thrown in the middle of this series. What did you make of the three games he played?
Peter Laviolette: “It’s hard to paint it with one brush. There were things that he did, you guys watched the series so you know the highs and the lows and the goods and the bads, he’s a young goaltender that went in. He did it coming off a long layoff. He had some fantastic points in games. I don’t think it was goaltending why we we’re not playing tomorrow or moving on. I think it [points] more the lack of production and being able to score. You have to be able to score as well. The goaltending, like all year, gave us an opportunity. There were a couple young goaltenders in there and they did a good job. You can always go back and say you wish you had save here or there but for the most part, I thought Sammy played pretty good. When Andy was called upon, he played pretty good. When Vitek was called upon, he played pretty good as well.”
Ovi’s contract ends in a few months. What has Alex Ovechkin meant to you as a coach?
Peter Laviolette: “Well, I’d like to think he’d be back. This is his team. That’s business that gets taken care of on a different day. With regard to Alex, he’s a good person. He cares, he plays hard. This is his team. He feels the disappointment that everybody else does tonight. For me coming in here and not having the opportunity working with him before, I thought it was a good year for him and a good year for our team and we’re disappointed with the playoffs and how they unfolded.”
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