The "E" Word

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

It’s been just over three years since the Caps took to the Verizon Center ice for their first post-lockout playoff series. Game 1 took place on Friday, April 11, 2008 at Verizon Center. Having won 15 of 19, 11 of 12 and seven straight to get into the playoffs, the Caps came in on a high. But they were also a young and inexperienced bunch. “I think we were a little naïve,” recalls Caps defenseman Mike Green. “We didn’t know what to expect. Sometimes that’s a good thing; nerves can come into play. Guys had told us it was a whole different experience, that it’s faster and a whole different game. You really don’t know what to expect, but it really was. It seems like as you go on into the rounds, it gets harder and harder. Unfortunately, we’ve only gone into the second round here and we’re looking to go further. Although Donald Brashear staked Washington to an early 1-0 lead with a goal on his first shift of the game, the Capitals were down 4-2 after the first 40 minutes, and captain Alex Ovechkin had been held without a shot on goal heading into the final period. Mike Green scored twice in the first 6:26 of the third, and Ovechkin scored what would prove to be the game-winner at 15:28 of the third. For Green, Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich, Boyd Gordon and John Erskine, that game represented their first taste of Stanley Cup playoff hockey. “Our first game, we won,” Laich remembers. We got away with one. Snuck out with a 5-4 win, and that after that we lost the next three. And then we really woke up and realized that you have to really lay it out, all out every game. “It seems weird, but we finally relaxed a little bit. When our backs were against the wall and we were facing elimination, we weren’t squeezing our sticks so tight. We just let ‘er go and played hockey, and that’s when we started to play our best hockey. We forced it to seven games and unfortunately ended up losing in overtime.” Washington has played 28 playoff games – four series that have each gone the distance of seven games – in the last three springs. Green, Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, Laich and Matt Bradley are the only six players to play in all 28. Gordon and Tom Poti have each played in 27. The Caps were a bit of a green bunch in terms of playoff experience three years ago, but this time around only two Capitals – rookie center Marcus Johansson and freshman goaltender Michal Neuvirth – will be tasting Stanley Cup action for the first time.” “We are more of a veteran team this year,” notes Laich. “We’ve got some guys who can help the younger guys who haven’t been there. There are guys who have been through four seven-game series here in the locker room with this team. A little more experience should bode well for us.” Experience can be seen as a euphemism. Oscar Wilde once said, “Experience is the name everyone gives to his mistakes.” Given that the core of this team has now endured four seven-game series – three of them heartbreakers – together, what sort of collective experience have they derived from that experience? “The one thing is that it’s very hard to eliminate an opponent,” says Laich. “You can win three games, but winning that fourth game is very tough. “Special teams are a huge part of it. Other than that, if you want to look at it, everything is under a microscope. You look at the series last year against Montreal, if we could have gotten one goal or one power play goal there, it might have just turned the whole series. Momentum can be a big key, and you just hope that you can get it on your side and do your best to do that.” Experience is what you don’t have when you need it, and getting it can be a painful process. Once you have it, using it wisely is key. “Experience,” says Green. “That’s the main word right there. There’s nothing more exciting than playing in those games. We haven’t ended up on the right side all the time, but the more you play the better off you are going to be. You don’t want to have that [losing] feeling, and you know how to get over those feelings of nervousness. “I’m excited. I just want to play. I don’t want to go to a Game 7, but at least we know what to expect.”

next up:

Caps First-Round TV Schedule

January 14, 2013

As a public service, here's the contents of a press release from Comcast regarding Caps first-round coverage on Comcast SportsNet. *Please note that VERSUS’ coverage of Game 1 of the Capitals-Rangers playoff series on Wednesday, April 13 – which is subject to local black-out – will be Joined in

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