On Monday, Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden spoke to the media on a Zoom call from Hotel X in Toronto. He provided updates on defenseman John Carlson and center Lars Eller and what the team needs to do heading into Game 1 of their Round One clash against the New York Islanders in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday.
The team held an optional practice today, but Reirden said Carlson was on the ice. “We’ll continue to take that day-by-day. He seems to be making some steps in the right direction here.” Carlson has been practicing since August 1 but has not played since the 3-2 exhibition victory over Carolina Hurricanes on July 29 when he crashed into the boards in the third period with a Hurricanes skater. The 30-year-old defenseman did not play in any three of the Capitals’ round-robin games.
Reirden said facing the Islanders will be a “difficult challenge”. “It’s up to us to continue to find ways to manufacture offense the best way we can and make sure we’re going to those hard areas.” He added the team will need to “match their [the Islanders] work ethic” to give the Capitals “the most success we can.”
On Braden Holtby, Reirden says the team is “100% confident” in the 30-year-old goaltender. He believes Holtby had a chance to “solidify his game” during Phase 2 and “re-establish some of our habits and details in his game”. “He’s headed in the right direction, that’s for certain.”
Additionally, Reirden said Holtby is “well-prepared for this opportunity” and hopes he will continue the great performance on Wednesday. He also added the team “needs to support him too”. “It’s not just all Braden Holtby, we gotta play good team defense for him, play a solid team game…make sure we’re committed to give him a chance to have success”.
The head coach is “confident” in the team, leadership, and overall experience getting to that next level for Wednesday’s matchup against the Islanders. He explained that round-robin hockey was something the guys were not used to and how it’s a different intensity. “Now we’re back to something we feel comfortable and that’s playoff hockey,” Reirden said.
On August 5, Eller left the bubble to head to Washington for the birth of his second child. He returned to Toronto on Saturday to begin quarantine. Per NHL protocols, Eller must produce at least four consecutive negative tests over a four-day period upon his return to the team. Reirden said Eller is not allowed to leave his hotel room for on-ice exercise while quarantining.
Reirden is noncommittal on whether Eller will play Game 1 on Wednesday if he is cleared to end quarantine that day. If so, he will have not been on the ice for one week. Reirden mentioned if Eller cannot suit up for the first game, he could play Game 2 on Friday if he’s “as close to healthy in terms of conditioning-wise”.
By Della Young