Defenseman Brenden Dillon told the media during the Washington Capitals‘ breakdown day on Tuesday that he felt “first and foremost, [frustrated]” after the team was eliminated from the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Boston Bruins in Game 5 on Sunday.
He said that the first couple of days after being eliminated are “tough anytime you lose,” especially with the team that the Capitals have. “We feel like we’re a lot, lot better than a first-round exit,” Dillon added. He acknowledged that part of the process is a self-reflection period and the Capitals have a great group of guys where “everyone cares, everyone wants to be better.”
“It’s tough. … We incorporated a lot of new people, including coaches. … Especially for [Laviolette’s] system. You’ve got to be in shape, make sure you get your rest and I think he gave us an awesome layout of his expectations,” Dillon said. He added that he felt like the Capitals met them for the majority of the season but acknowledged that there are “no excuses” despite the injuries that mounted up for the team towards the end of the season. “It’s a frustrating team for how good of a team we had,” the 30-year-old said.
“It wasn’t normal but it was something where each team had to go through something of their own. They each had their own unique circumstances. … There’s definitely an excitement for next year,” Dillon told the media. He has already started talking about next season with coaches and teammates. Dillon acknowledged that “You just want things to be back,” like going back to arenas with fans and having Capital One Arena back at full capacity.
On what he has learned from defenseman Zdeno Chara this season, Dillon stated “He’s obviously a guy that I’ve been able to look up to for the past however many years he’s been playing in the NHL. … to have him around here as a Capital for the past [season], from leadership to work ethic to how you treat your teams to the trainers is infectious and you wonder how he built that culture in Boston. It really starts from how you learn as a person.”
When asked about the summer full of changes looming, Dillon responded that “We can’t answer those. There’s a lot of things going on this summer. … Doesn’t matter how you did this season. I thought I had a pretty good year personally.” He wants to get better every year, especially in skating. “It was a lot of fun with the core group that we had. … Rosters are always changing. … We have a lot of great pieces here,” he added. Dillon thought it could have been a different series depending on different outcomes of the three overtime games.
With the 2021-22 season expected to be normal, Dillon said that “You have to take care of yourself to stay at peak performance for the whole season. … For a group like ours, we’re excited about that.” The team knows that they will play high up-tempo system. Laviolette communicated that players should know their place before players parted for the summer.
Dillon told the media that “it has to fuel guys’ fires this summer” after seeing people saying that the Capitals’ Stanley Cup window has closed. He mentioned the fact that people do not see players’ work ethic behind the scenes. “A Stanley Cup is what we expect in Washington. … That’s exciting as a player,” he added. Dillon thinks of that as motivation for a player.
On the difference in offseason training last fall, Dillon said that “Everyone’s bodies are different and everybody’s at different stages in their careers. … It was a learning curve in that sense.” He thinks having a normal season next year with the bye week, an Olympic break, et cetera will be nice.
By Harrison Brown