In the span of 24 hours, these Capitals will have a chance to do something that no other squad in organization history has ever done: knock a defending Stanley Cup champion out of the playoffs.
After emerging from a back-and-forth Game 5 with a 4-3 win, the Capitals return to Verizon Center with the opportunity to clinch a first-round series victory over the Boston Bruins. Game 6 is at 3 p.m. Sunday.
“The one thing we don’t want to do is come back to Boston,” Jay Beagle said. “We’ve got an opportunity here to go home and close this out, they’re going to come out hard and we’re going to see the best we’ve seen from them all year. It’s going to be a game.”
As the cliché goes, the fourth win is the toughest one to get in any series and the Capitals know they must be prepared for the strongest Boston push yet. High-stakes contests are familiar to many of the Bruins as well. Boston played in three Game 7s last spring and in the 2011 Stanley Cup final found itself in this exact situation, down three games to two, to the Vancouver Canucks before going on to win.
The Capitals understand that with back-to-back matinees, they can’t get caught dwelling on this victory for too long, anyway.
“Well there’s nothing wrong with being a bit happy,” Mike Knuble said. “We’ll be happy on the plane ride, guys will be in good spirits, but when we touch down, get back to Washington, the prep will be — to a man, to every guy – going on right away.
“We have a huge game to play tomorrow and you also have a Game 7 if necessary,” Knuble continued. “We’re pretty excited to go back to Washington to try to close this out and we’ll keep doing what got us to this point.”
For the Capitals, sticking with the plan has been a series-long trend. When Washington can remain on course — regardless of any lead that disappears, post-whistle scrum or general havoc the Bruins try to bring — the team has been frustratingly difficult to play against.
In the moments immediately after their Game 5 triumph, the Captials were also extolling the importance of keeping their nerves in check with a chance to put the series and Boston away on Sunday.
“What we really have to do is not get too much adrenaline flowing through us because that tires a person out,” goalie Braden Holtby said. “Obviously back-to-back games, that can affect you. Our goal is to keep our heads level and do those things that make us successful and play a very strong team game.”