It’s not unusual for a team to defend its star players against any grievance, real or perceived. But the way the Capitals handled a questionable hit by Toronto forward Jay McClement on Nicklas Backstrom Tuesday night sent a message that not only are they rolling on an eight-game winning streak, but they will respond as a unified front against any slight.
Alex Ovechkin set the ultimate example late in the first period when immediately after the hit on Backstrom, he made a beeline for McClement and confronted him. The rest of the Capitals followed suit, jumping in to help Ovechkin and creating a scrum.
Ovechkin brushed off his actions as not being anything out of the ordinary.
“I just step up for my teammate and I think everybody would do the same [whether] it were happening to me or Hendy,” Ovechkin said. “Everybody going to do the same thing.”
But that it was the Capitals’ star winger and captain, who happens to be the NHL’s leading goal scorer, who was the first to come to the aid of a teammate certainly gives the rest of the team a cause to rally around.
“It shows team toughness. It shows team toughness, and that’s what a leader’s all about, too. I think Alex brings that,” defenseman Steve Oleksy said. “He’s not afraid to stand in there for his teammates, no matter who it is. And I think he showed that, and I think our team feeds off stuff like that.”
Ovechkin received a charging minor, despite the hearty disapproval of the Verizon Center crowd, but a penalty taken in defense of a teammate is one the Capitals will never mind killing. On McClement’s next shift, Jason Chimera made him drop the gloves and answer the bell for the hit on Washington’s top center.
“Yeah, you can hear the crowd, you know? The guys said they were going to kill it all day long, that kind of penalties,” Ovechkin said. “Chimmer did a good job jumping in and showing that you can’t touch our best players, so I think it shows the character of the team and it shows that everybody cares about each other.”
The immediate quest for retribution and the doubled-down efforts of the entire team to thwart the penalty was a display of toughness not seen from the Capitals often in recent seasons. But against Toronto there was no doubt that this group – from Ovechkin on down — has each other’s back.
“We don’t really talk about it. We don’t really say, ‘Hey if you get hit, I’ll stick up for you.’ we expect it out of each other,” Troy Brouwer said. “We’re a family in here and with that, you’re always going to stick up for your family members. You’re always going to stick up for your friends. Out there it’s no different, you’re just allowed to fight.”
Brouwer acknowledged that as the Capitals continue on this successful run, that feeling of all for one and one for all is growing in the room.
“As you’re winning and as you’re bonding and having more fun playing hockey together, those bonds are going to get stronger between the guys,” Brouwer said. “They’re going to feel more compelled to stand up for each other when things are going really well for you. Not saying that guys wouldn’t do it when you’re not winning, but you just have that camaraderie that grows and grows when you’re having success as a team.”
Via CSN Washington, here’s the video of Ovechkin coming to Backstrom’s defense and Chimera’s fight with McClement.