While Game 7 looms on Wednesday evening, after Tuesday’s workout at the Capitals’ practice facility the mood in the dressing room was noticeably loose and calm.
Maybe it’s because many of them have played in important playoff games before and know that tension isn’t to their advantage, or that after an up-and-down season they finally know what type of game to expect themselves, or because they’re finally the lower seed and considered the underdog.
Regardless of the specific reasons, the Capitals are certainly at ease heading into this winner-take-all contest at TD Garden.
“It’s good. I mean, there’s no point in having nerves right now,” Braden Holtby said. “This is fun. This is what we’re hoping for. We’re still the underdogs here. We’re going into Boston and I know we like that energy in our dressing room right now and we’re gonna use that to our advantage.”
The Capitals know that Game 7 will likely be a nailbiter, swung one way or the other on a bounce or mistake. That makes it easier to know what to expect in this final contest against the Bruins and not get rattled by event during the course of it.
More than simply knowing the type of game to expect overall – assuming the trends of the first six meetings holds up – the Capitals are encouraged by their ability to play the same style from game to game in this series without any large dropoffs in execution. That wasn’t always the case in the regular season.
“Guys adjust,” Mike Knuble said. “Some guys the first day they’re drinking the Kool-Aid. Other guys it takes a couple of months to get them to do it. It’s an interesting challenge to change tendencies and to change habits. Talked about it before, the offensive guys, they’ve been offensive their whole life, since they’ve could wipe their nose they’ve been out there scoring goals. It’s kind of hard to get them all to think a little bit differently. Because it’s what’s gotten you here.”
It may have taken an uneven regular season for Washington to reach this point and all be on the same page, but the important part is that they finally appear to have found their identity under Coach Dale Hunter at the time when it matters most.
That they didn’t have an easy route to the postseason and didn’t secure a playoff berth until the penultimate game of the regular season, ultimately landing as the seventh seed, is something that Karl Alzner thinks taught the Capitals an important lesson heading into this series.
“I think in the end it changed our mentality and our game a lot,” the defenseman said. “If we would have squeaked out of a lot of wins [in games] that we ended up losing we would have maybe had a little too much of a swagger. Now we know that we’re not going to cruise by any team. We’re definitely not going to be winning games 5-1, 4-1, in the playoffs. Everything is going to be tight. It just really brought us back down to earth and that’s important for this team.”
More on the Capitals:
— Bruins notebook: Bergeron in for Game 7
— Hunter wants Caps to enjoy themselves
— Marchand says he’s not a diver
— Caps happy to play Boston on the road
— Wise: Caps fans have been burned, scarred
— Graphic: Caps-Bruins series, shot-by-shot
— Schultz could return to lineup for Game 7
— Beagle’s diary: Thinking nothing but hockey