PITTSBURGH — All that’s necessary to understand the state of the Washington Capitals entering Monday’s elimination game in Pittsburgh is a quick trip in the way-back machine. Destination: May 10, 2016.
Game 6. In Pittsburgh. Round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Season on the line. In other words, exactly the situation the Capitals find themselves in now. Washington lost that game in 2016, 4-3 in OT, so, this year, they’re looking for a do-over.
“I just think seldom in life do you get a chance to be in a position that we were last year, position we were a couple games ago,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “So, it’s just an opportunity.”
Of course, on the flip-side of having a do-over, the Capitals also face the possibility of strengthening their can’t-win playoff reputation should Pittsburgh send them home early yet again.
“It’s kind of been the question with ourselves with the way that we’ve finished in years past. Obviously like I said it’s been the question in the media if we can get out of round two, if we have what it takes to go all the way and I think in times like these you find out a lot about yourself and you show people a lot about what you’re about,” said winger T.J. Oshie. “I think it’s a good opportunity for us to show that this isn’t the year that we’re going to go home early.”
That Oshie was willing to speak so freely about the Capitals playoff narrative illustrates how inevitable the comparisons between this series and the 2016 Penguins series have become. Leading up to the postseason and in the first round, most players spoke as if the past was either irrelevant or a distant memory.
Over the last couple of games, though, the similarities have become so apparent that the locker room has begun acknowledging them.
“Well I think the media has done a good job over the last 10, 12, 15, 20 years of [our past] but I think we just said, yeah, it is,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “We embrace our past. Our past is what it is. We can’t change it but what we can do is change our future. I think we’ve changed our mindset on that.
“You don’t have to tell us what the past is. We already know.”
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