Williams played in Los Angeles for seven seasons, and he won two Stanley Cups with the team. In the offseason, he signed a two-year, $6.25 million deal with Washington, and he’s played on the Capitals’ second line for most of the season. It’s been a perfect fit: He has scored 18 goals, matching his total from last season, and added 20 assists. Tuesday will be his first game against his former team.
Though it’s special for Williams and fellow ex-King Mike Richards, it doesn’t have to be different once the puck drops. What if he had to hit former teammate and friend Anze Kopitar?
“Well, I might choose someone a little bit smaller than Kopi to make a first hit,” Williams joked.
“Just to go out there, and you say ‘no friends,’ but it’s not friends,” Williams said. “You go out there, you play your 60, 60-plus minutes, whatever it is, and it is what it is after. But if I’m off my game a little bit by not finishing a check, not being hard like I usually am in the corners, then I’m hurting our team. I’m going to go for it and see what happens.”
Williams was beloved in Los Angeles. He came to the Capitals with eight career 40-point seasons under his belt and only one missed game over the past four years. Nicknamed “Mr. Game 7″ for his heroics in such situations, none bigger than during the Kings’ run to the 2013-14 Stanley Cup, when he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy, Williams has also never posted an even-strength shot-attempt rate lower than 51.6 percent, according to war-on-ice.com. In seven career Game 7s, all victories for Los Angeles, Williams has an NHL record 14 points.
Capitals Coach Barry Trotz now has Williams on a line with Washington’s two youngest and brightest stars, center Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky. The 34-year-old has been a positive influence on his linemates and has easily meshed in the locker room, where he’s known as “Mr. Crossword” for his quick puzzle-solving ability.
“You’ve got to have a personality, and he has one,” Trotz said. “You blend in. He’s a guy’s guy, so I think he fits in in terms of the locker room. He fits in very easily. He’s very confident in what he’s done and where he is as a person. I think those are the main ingredients, and then he’s got some street credibility. He’s got a couple rings, he’s won a few trophies that are very important in the postseason, so you walk in the room, you’re going to have some credibility, and he’s a terrific person and a real good personality, so it was really easy for him to fit in, I think.”
Williams’s relationships with his new team doesn’t lessen the ones with his old one. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to win
“You always remember the people you win with, always, and you remember each other as champions,” Williams said. “Obviously I have a lot of feelings — good feelings — towards my time there, but time marches on, and in this day and age, you’re very rarely with one team for your whole career. I’ve moved on, and they have too.”