Considering how hard the Washington Capitals celebrated their first Stanley Cup title, it’s almost a minor miracle they are not suffering a championship hangover.
Instead of stumbling out of the gate, the Capitals pounded the Boston Bruins 7-0 in their opening game of the season and are out to a 4-2-2 start heading into their game against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place (7 p.m.) on Thursday.
“For us, it’s a great feeling (being defending champs), obviously, we did something special last year and I think we want to keep doing that this year,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin after practice in Edmonton on Wednesday. “You can’t forget what happened last year, but when you play, you want that feeling you had last year and most of us are playing with that confidence and we believe in ourselves and we believe in this group. Last year, that experience was something we’re going to remember forever and this year we want that as well.”
Led by Ovechkin, the Capitals went all in celebrating the first Stanley Cup championship in franchise victory.
Ovechkin and the Capitals took their celebrations to a new level in Washington, D.C., and then travelled to Russia with the Stanley Cup where he was greeted as a hero as the first Russian captain to win an NHL title.
Yet, the party eventually concluded and the focus shifted to this upcoming season where the core of the championship group remains.
“We are all professionals,” Ovechkin said. “We celebrated well, but as soon as maybe a month later, you realize you have to get back into shape, because everyone is going to play differently against you.”
As defending champions, the dynamic is different in the Capitals dressing room this season. They are carrying themselves as champions knowing the rest of the league are trying to measure up to them.
“It’s different, it’s unique,” said Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby. “We have shown our moments where it (hangover) has seeped into our game. But it’s going to be that challenge of making sure that with that natural drive to win your first one gone, we’re going to have to make sure we make up for that in different areas and are hungry to do it again.
“We’ll have it, it’s just one of those learning things that we’re going to have to try and keep working and working to get back to that point, because it’s hard to repeat.”
For the majority of the Capitals, there came a moment this past summer where the switch was flipped and the focus shifted from celebrating the previous season to preparing for the next.
“It seems like every time you do that, there is something else that comes up,” Holtby said. “But I think we’re to the point now where it’s over and we get a little sick of hearing about some of the stuff talking about the past year, because we’re ready to focus on now, focus on this year.
“We had our fun, we earned the right to enjoy the summer with it, but once the puck dropped on this season, that’s all history now. It’s about trying to do it again.”
The only thing that can top winning a championship, is winning a second championship, giving the Capitals another opportunity to celebrate this summer.
Finally understanding the euphoria of being a Stanley Cup champion is what drives the team this year, starting with their franchise player.
“Once they all got their Cup for the day, I reached out to a majority of them and talked to them about their own individual goals and our team goals moving forward,” said Capitals head coach Todd Reirden, who was promoted from associate when Barry Trotz walked away and took a job with the New York Islanders. “We sent an email at the end of July to discuss the standards that were going to be required for them when they came to camp and they were really, really on top of that. I’d say four or five of our veteran guys have never been in as good a shape as they are this year. It’s a real credit to them and their desire to have some more fun again this summer if we can give ourselves that chance.”
Among those leading the charge is Ovechkin. He has eight goals and 13 points in eight games heading into the contest against the Oilers.
“For me it started with how he came into camp,” Reirden said. “That’s the lightest I’ve ever seen him and his body fat was the least it’s been since I’ve been here.
“After a summer like that where it was shortened, that to me it sent a message for the rest of the group and I thought that was outstanding. It’s been fun to watch him mature over the last little while and definitely he’s not satisfied with just one Stanley Cup.”
On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest
This news has been published by title Washington Capitals Celebrate Stanley Cup With D.C. Parade
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