On Monday, Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom spoke to the media on a Zoom call following Group A’s practice on the first day of the 2020-21 training camp. The regular season will start on Wednesday, January 13. The Capitals will open the season against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagra Center on Thursday, January 14.
Backstrom said head coach Peter Laviolette wanted the team to “play fast and quick” and that will be the mindset moving forward. “[We’re] lucky to have him here,” he said. He also added Laviolette explains “how everything will work” with systems and the importance of repetition. Backstrom noted the team has a “couple of things we have to get used to”.
According to Backstrom, Group A had an intense and “hard” 90-minute session. He stressed how crucial it is to get prepared and ready and work on the systems for the first game that is only ten days away. The Capitals have two intrasquad scrimmages coming up: Thursday and Sunday, which the Swede noted will be “good for us”.
He knows the team has a “great core group” and has acquired excellent players over the last few months. He believes the drive and motivation are strong. “Anything can happen out there,” Backstrom said.
The Capitals are a veteran team —the oldest team heading into the 2020-21 season. Backstrom is not fond of discussing the championship window. He commented that no one thought they would win in 2018 either.
On goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who will not play this season due to a heart condition and procedure, Backstrom called the absence “definitely disappointing”, but said, “health comes before career”. The two Swedes have talked and Backstrom is glad Lundqvist was “lucky” to discover the issue quickly and have a procedure done. “[I] hope that he is going to be healthy and good to go.”
Goaltender Braden Holtby signed a two-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks during Free Agency on October 9. Backstrom said it’s “going to be weird” without Holtby sporting the same red sweater, but understands that is the “way it goes” on the business side.
“It’s almost going to be like a playoff series,” Backstrom said on the format of the season. Playing a team eight times with back-to-back games thrown in is like a “mini playoff series,” according to him. Backstrom thinks it will be “fun” and knows it was the best solution for staying as safe as possible.
We’ve got a great core group here. We’ve added some really good players. The drive is there.”
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 4, 2021
By Della Young