WASHINGTON — Last year’s Capitals steamrolled into the playoffs on a new beat. Leaving the past in the past, they were intent on blazing a new trail.
“In [the Washington] market, it seems that everybody brings up the past,” coach Barry Trotz said last May. “And it’s funny, because the past, a lot of times, it’s not relevant.”
The results, ultimately, proved the same. A second round exit, cast out by Pittsburgh.
So fans might be rightfully leery, as the Caps embark on their third consecutive playoff run, and second straight as Presidents’ Trophy winners, of any team official signaling this team is in any way ‘different.’
During an interview with 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier, Capitals defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, a brilliant mid-season addition, was asked Tuesday if fans’ nervous tension permeates the team.
“I’ve noticed that it’s something that surrounds this team since I’ve been here,” Shattenkirk bluntly said. “I think fans are really anxious about it. I’ve gotten a lot of ‘please make it out of the first round, please make it out of the second round’ comments this year since I’ve been here.”
“But I understand it,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it that it’s hard for fans, it’s hard for the players. We want to be as successful as possible and win every year. But I think not worrying about what happened in the past, it’s hard to do, but you need to push it out of your mind. You don’t want any sort of doubt in there.
“You don’t want anything creeping into your head in the middle of a game, ‘Oh, here we go again.’ You don’t want that feeling. Again, I don’t bear those crosses like some of these guys do here, so that’s my job, to, when I see that, maybe just take a guy aside and get his mind off of it and tell him we’re going to go out and win this game, it’s gonna be a different year. That’s what we need to do and focus on.”
Asked to share a message for the fans, Shattenkirk said, “It’s funny, you really don’t need to tell ’em too much because they’re in the stands and they’re still back here supporting us, and that shows us that they still believe in us.”
“It shows us that they want it just as badly as we do,” he said. “When those moments come, and you know when the momentum turns in a game, keep cheering. Stay loud. Don’t think ‘what if?’ Think about ‘why not?’ I think that’s the important message to give to the fans. We’re gonna do it and we’re gonna need your support all the way through.”