Capitals owner Ted Leonsis made his way around the jam-packed visitors dressing room at TD Garden, congratulating player after player on their dramatic overtime win in Game 7 and series victory over the Boston Bruins.
He called Joel Ward’s gritty rebound goal “beautiful,” described the reaction in his suite at the arena as “bedlam” and said no matter how much stress and anxiety these close games can cause “I’ll take as many as we can get like this.”
But Leonsis grounded his happiness at the first-round win and reminded everyone listening that there are greater goals the Capitals want to achieve.
“What we were doing before didn’t work so you have to try something different. We didn’t know if this would work,” Leonsis said. “We got through the first round, we did that last year. So there’s relief and joy but there’s a lot of work left to do. I’ll think we improved over last year if we can get through the second round. That’s the goal year after year.”
This year certainly hasn’t gone according to any script or plan that was laid out for the Capitals. When they hired Dale Hunter and moved toward a patient, defensive style of game away from the offensive glitz that they relied on in previous seasons it was a calculated risk. Dispatching the defending Stanley Cup champions is the first main example that the leap paid off.
“This system seems to be the right system to play in the playoffs,” Leonsis said. “To have seven one-goal games and four overtime games, this certainly was the best, most competitive series since I’ve owned the team.”
While many players have described the season as an up-and-down roller coaster experience, Leonsis disagreed and said that he’s most concerned with reaching the playoffs. Once they’re in, anything is possible.
“I don’t think it’s been a rough ride,” Leonsis said. “We made the playoffs, that’s the goal every year. I think we’ve learned it doesn’t matter where you end the season as long as you qualify. You just look around and Vancouver’s out, Pittsburgh’s out — some of the great teams — and so it’s an honor to move on. We’ll figure out who we’re playing, but they deserve a couple of days to catch their breath and let the fans celebrate back in DC.”