“I think I’ve noticed that it’s something that surrounds this team since I’ve been here,” Shattenkirk told Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on Tuesday on 106.7 The Fan. “I think fans are really anxious about it. I’ve gotten a lot of, ‘Please make it out of the first round, please make it out of the second round’ comments this year since I’ve been here.”
(A more pointed, handwritten version of that message was recently spotted on the top of the boards at Kettler Capitals Iceplex: “Y’all better make it past the 2nd Round.”)
“But I understand it, “Shattenkirk continued. “There’s no doubt about it that it’s hard for fans, it’s hard for the players. We want to be as successful as possible and win every year. But I think not worrying about what happened in the past, it’s hard to do, but you need to push it out of your mind. You don’t want any sort of doubt in there. You don’t want anything creeping into your head in the middle of a game, ‘Oh, here we go again.’ You don’t want that feeling. Again, I don’t bear those crosses like some of these guys do here, so that’s my job, too, when I see that, maybe just take a guy aside and get his mind off of it and tell him we’re going to go out and win this game, and it’s gonna be a different year. That’s what we need to do and focus on.”
As one of the new guys in the room, Shattenkirk said it’s his job to “kind of breathe a little fresh air into” his teammates who have been a part of previous Capitals playoff teams. Rouhier asked Shattenkirk if he had a message for Capitals fans ahead of Thursday’s playoff opener against the Maple Leafs.
“It’s funny, you really don’t need to tell them too much because they’re in the stands and they’re still back here supporting us,” Shattenkirk said. “That shows us that they still believe in us. It shows us they want it just as badly as we do, and I think they just have to, when those moments come, and you know when the momentum turns in a game, keep cheering. Stay loud. Don’t think, ‘What if?’ Think about, ‘Why not?’ I think that’s the important message to give to the fans. We’re gonna do it and we’re gonna need your support all the way through.”
After winning their second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy, the Capitals are overwhelming favorites to defeat Toronto in the first round and among the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Shattenkirk said dealing with the expectations that come with being the best team in the NHL for the past six months isn’t difficult.
“You just have to trust it,” Shattenkirk said. “What happens in the regular season doesn’t happen by accident. The way that we play here, it’s a successful way of playing hockey, and they’ve shown it year in and year out. Me being a part of it now, it’s a fun system to play in, and it’s a system that gives a lot of teams fits. We have to believe that. There’s going to be highs and lows to every game and you have to trust at that moment that your system works better than the other team’s system, and if you stick to that game plan, eventually they’re going to crack. That’s what we have to do. We keep wearing them down and once we see those cracks, that’s when we pounce. That’s what we’re going to do on Thursday, and the game after that and the game after that until they don’t want to play anymore, and that’s playoff hockey.”