In his first year as coach of the Capitals Barry Trotz has introduced to his players quite a few catch phrases.
One of them has become a mantra they could probably employ right about now.
“Feed The Right Wolf.”
— CSN Capitals (@CSNCapitals) May 9, 2015
Based on an old Native American tale, the phrase comes from a story a father is telling his son. Two wolves, the father says, live inside each of us – one good, one bad. The boy asks his father which wolf wins and the father replies, “The one you feed.”
After Friday night’s crushing 2-1 overtime loss in New York the Capitals now lead their best-of-seven playoff series with the Rangers three games to two. The Caps can clinch a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals with a win Sunday night at Verizon Center. Or, they could lose on Sunday night and head to MadisonSquare Garden for a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night.
“Everybody has two wolves in their body,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said, pointing to a placard hung inside the visiting locker room at Madison Square Garden. “The right one and the wrong one. It just depends which one you give the power to.”
Today the Capitals find themselves confronted by those two wolves. One is asking them to feed off the negative energy of blowing a third-period lead with 1:41 remaining in regulation, then committing a turnover to lose the game in overtime.
The other asking them to feed off the positive energy of returning home to a raucous home crowd with a chance to go somewhere they haven’t been since 1998.
“It’s putting your energy in a place that’s going to best help the team,” Capitals center Brooks Laich said. “In the course of a playoff series you go through momentum swings. In a game there could be a bad call by an official, or a break not go your way and it’s all how you react to things and how you channel your energy and put it into the right wolf so that we can still be focused on our goal.”
On Friday night, the Caps had a goal by Joel Ward disallowed. They had an overtime pass by Curtis Glencross picked off in the neutral zone, resulting in Ryan McDonagh’s game-winning goal.
And now they are faced with turning the page and re-telling the story their coach first told them at the start of the season.
“It means making the right decisions when it comes to being disciplined, playing the system, not going off on your own page because that’s not the right thing to do,” Alzner said. “It’s kind of a mindset of thinking positive and that’s what the team has been trying to do. When we get scored against, it’s not, ‘Oh, shoot, we’re down a goal.’ It’s ‘Let’s get that back.’ It’s a positive outlook when things can get negative.”
“It’s a small little reminder,” Laich said, “that if a certain player or if the team starts coming off track, it’s just a small reminder to feed the right wolf and get back on track and get your focus on winning the hockey game.”