Players lobbed well-intended jabs at one another, exchanged jokes with reporters and seemed relaxed to the point that an uninformed observer might not have believed the team will be fighting to keep its season alive tonight in Game 7 at TDGarden.
There's no reason to be anything but calm, the Capitals said. Most have been here before — facing a game that ultimately will determine the success or failure of everything they've accomplished to this point. Even those with minimal
While the Capitals certainly haven't followed any script laid out for them, they are one win away from advancing to the second round past the defending
"We're content with where we are. It's kind of who we are," veteran
Since they returned to the playoffs in 2008, the Capitals are 1-3 in Game7s. Washington lost to the
Washington's postseason disappointments weren't limited to those do-or-die contests, as several younger players realized the disappointing sting of elimination when the team was swept by the
"We've learned from [the previous exits]," said defenseman
There are undeniable differences between this year's team and previous incarnations, from the addition of new players to the presence of coach Dale Hunter and the defense-first mindset he brought to a group that was accustomed to run-and-gun.
Learning to adhere to Hunter's style of play was an arduous process. During the regular season, Washington would play cohesively one night, only to be dysfunctional the next.
By the time they scraped their way into the postseason, the Capitals were grounded in their game. Washington has been at its most consistent under Hunter in this series. The violent swings in the team's ability to execute that dotted the regular season are all but absent, enabling the Capitals to weather the emotional flux of the playoffs with relative ease.
"I think everybody feels better," Backstrom said. "Everybody's working for each other and that's what you've got to do. If we keep doing like this, I think we'll win tomorrow or we'll have a good chance."
The Capitals' ability to remain poised and unflinching in their dedication to the type of play that helped them reach this point will hold sway over their fortunes in Game 7 against the Bruins. There's no point in getting uptight.