The Washington Capitals are less than two weeks away from participating in the 2016 NHL Playoffs. The Caps are the NHL’s Presidents’ Trophy winners and they have 54 wins in 76 games this year.
With the home ice advantage through the entire playoffs, the Capitals will have their fans behind them the whole way, and the Verizon Center will have an electric atmosphere for every game. It will be tough for any opposing team to defeat the Capitals at home for any of the playoff games.
There is only one thing left for this Capitals club to accomplish during this magical season: Win the Stanley Cup. It is one of the hardest trophies to win in any professional sport, and any club that wins it has certainly earned it.
So what can the Capitals do to prepare themselves for the playoff grind? How can the Capitals help their chances for a long postseason run?
GET HEALTHY AND STAY HEALTHY
The NHL regular season is a long road full of bumps and bruises along the way. Analyzing the past few weeks for the Capitals, it appears that their stars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are dinged up.
With 6 games remaining and nothing left to play for in the regular season, Barry Trotz can afford to rest his star players who might be dinged up. Sitting Alex Ovechkin or Nicklas Backstrom for a game or two will not do them any harm. Both of the Capitals stars come ready to play on most nights, and giving them a night off might re-charge them.
TAKE THE FINAL GAMES SERIOUSLY
Even if the Capitals do not deploy a full lineup in the games down the stretch, the Capitals need to take the final games seriously. The club has to go into the playoffs on a high note, and they cannot afford to be lazy.
If the Capitals do not take the remaining games seriously, bad habits may start to creep back in. The Capitals cannot afford to have bad on-ice habits in the spring. The intensity level of the club must be high at all times, and the effort has to be there for a full 60-minutes.
PLAY LIKE A WINNER, PLAY LIKE A CHAMPION
This ties in to giving a full 60-minute effort. The Capitals have won a lot of games this year, and they have shown the entire NHL that they can compete with anyone.
If every Capitals skater and goaltender gives a complete effort every night, the Capitals will be a tough team to beat. The Capitals are deep at every position on the ice, and they have a lot of talent. This talented group has delivered moments of consistency this year.
Now it is time for the Capitals to take talent to the next level. The Capitals players need to instill in their brains that they are better than the team they are playing against. It is time to adopt the winning mentality in the playoffs. Play with confidence, play with attitude, and play with swagger. Play like you are the best. Play to win the game.
REMAIN STRONG ON SPECIAL TEAMS
The Capitals have been one of the most consistent teams on special teams in the NHL. The powerplay and penalty kill units have both been in the NHL’s top 5 all season long.
Special teams are one area that has haunted the Capitals in previous playoff appearances. The Capitals need to make every powerplay opportunity count, and there needs to be goal contributions from skaters not named Alex Ovechkin.
The Capitals also need to eliminate the previous bad habit of committing too many penalties in playoff games. It is hard to win games when the penalty killers are out there for a period at a time. The Capitals should still play hard and play fast, but they need to try to not commit too many penalties in playoff games.
USE PREVIOUS PLAYOFF FAILURES AS A MOTIVATIONAL TOOL
The Capitals players all have bad memories of previous playoff series. The Capitals have had their hopes and dreams crushed early in the playoffs for too many years.
The core group of Capitals has experienced the worst of the worst in the playoffs. But sometimes, a club has to learn how to lose before they know how to win. The Capitals need to use all of their previous playoff failures as motivational tool, not as discouragement.
By George Foussekis