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Chance of winning Stanley Cup led Roy to Capitals

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Chance of winning Stanley Cup led Roy to Capitals

Derek Roy says he could have signed a professional tryout contract with another NHL team, but chose the Washington Capitals as his potential employer for one shiny reason.

“I just felt it was a good spot for me,” Roy, a 32-year-old free-agent center, said Tuesday after his first day on the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “I’m towards the end of my career and I want to win the Stanley Cup. And to win the Stanley Cup you’ve got to crack the lineup on a good team. It’s a test for me and I’m going to work as hard as I can.”

With center Nicklas Backstrom (hip surgery) questionable for the Caps’ Oct. 10 season opener against the Devils, the Caps extended a PTO to Roy, a versatile forward who can direct a power play, kill penalties and win key faceoffs while also providing quiet guidance for young forwards like Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky.

“We’ve been talking a lot this summer and we felt this is a good opportunity for me to come play here,” Roy said. “It seems like they have some good leaders on this team and some great players and good young talent. I want to come in here and see where I fit.”

If Backstrom is unable to start the season, Roy could slide in behind Kuznetsov as a second-line center, or he could move to left wing behind Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson. His arrival could impact the playing time of forwards such as Brooks Laich and Burakovsky as well.   

Three months ago Roy appeared to be close to re-signing with the Edmonton Oilers. He helped revitalize a struggling Nail Yakupov after arriving from Nashville last season and had become a strong, steady presence in a young Oilers locker room.

According to his agent, Roy’s future in Edmonton took a wrong turn when the Oilers won the draft lottery and took center Connor McDavid with the first pick.

“If Edmonton doesn’t win the draft lottery, Derek probably has a spot on their hockey team,” Roy’s agent, Rob Hooper, said. “We had positive conversations with Edmonton and (general manager) Peter Chiarelli put everything on hold once they won the draft lottery and Connor McDavid was going to be part of their organization. 

“We were dealt that hand and now we’re trying to make the most of it and Derek is up for the challenge.”

Once July 1 passed with no contract offers, Roy had an opportunity to continue his playing career in Europe, but turned down lucrative offers for a chance to land on an NHL roster.   

RELATED Ovechkin, Roy hit the ice for Capitals

“It’s definitely challenging, but that’s the marketplace,” Hooper said. “I know Derek is in great shape, he’s healthy and he’s looking forward to showing what he can do. Hopefully, there’s a spot in Washington.”

Taken by the Buffalo Sabres with the 32nd pick of the 2001 NHL draft, Roy established himself as a reliable and crafty center who averaged 28 goals and 44 assists from 2007-10.

Roy had 35 points in 35 games in his seventh season in Buffalo when he suffered a season-ending quadriceps tear that required surgery.   

“I was having a good season,” Roy recalled. “It’s a major surgery and it set me back a little bit.  Sometimes it’s not just a quad that goes. It’s a groin, it’s a hip. I had to stabilize some of my muscles and strengthen my core and it’s definitely paid off.”

Roy spent the past two summers working with Gary Roberts, a former 50-goal scorer who won the Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989 while playing alongside Capitals current general manager Brian MacLellan.

Roberts now operates a renowned hockey training center in North York, Ontario and Roy spent the summer training there, alongside NHL stars Steven Stamkos, Phil Kessel, Teddy Purcell, and, ironically, McDavid.

“It was a tough offseason mentally, going to work out every day and not knowing where I was going to play,” Roy said. “It was definitely tough. There were other guys in the same boat, waking up in the morning and working that much harder to get where you want to be.”

Roy has played for five NHL teams in the past three seasons and is coming off a 12-goal, 20-assist season with the Predators and Oilers. On Tuesday it was clear Roy has spent the summer working on his speed game. He was one of the quickest players on the ice at Kettler and roofed a shot over goaltender Braden Holtby from close range.

 “Every time we play against him he’s sneaky,” Backstrom said. “He’s good with the puck and he can play wing or center. He’s a good addition.”

Under the terms of a PTO, teams have up until the season opener to sign a player. If Roy plays well enough to make the Caps’ roster at the NHL minimum of $575,000, the team would need to clear salary space. That most likely will come in the form of goaltender Justin Peters ($950,000) being sent to the AHL Hershey Bears.

“I guess you’ve got to just act like a rookie and play your heart out every day in practice and games and everything else will take care of itself,” said Roy, adding that he had only spoken to Caps coach Barry Trotz for about two minutes.

“He said it’s an opportunity for me to show what I can do,” Roy said, “and that’s what I’m going to do.”

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Was Columbus' travel a factor in the Caps' series comeback?

Was Columbus' travel a factor in the Caps' series comeback?

Whenever a playoff series ends, the analysis begins soon after. Why did this team win? Why did this team lose? Why did this player perform while this one did not?  This is an exercise performed by media, players and coaches alike, especially for teams that walk away from a series believing they let an opportunity slip away.

The Columbus Blue Jackets fell to the Washington Capitals in six games despite taking a 2-0 series lead by winning both opening games in Washington. Head coach John Tortorella will have all summer to think about what he could have done differently and what went wrong for his team, but it sounds like he already has at least one theory as to why they lost.

In a series that featured four overtime games, Game 4 stands out as being far more one-sided than the others. Washington turned in the most dominant performance of the series in a 4-1 win that knotted the teams at two wins apiece.

That game stood out to Tortorella too and he thinks he knows why the Blue jackets laid an egg that night: Travel.

"I think we should’ve stayed in Washington after that second overtime game, the second game there," Tortorella said. "I think that comes back and gets you later on in the series. We should’ve stayed in Washington and let them get a good night sleep. They got in here so late. I don’t think it affected us in Game 3. It comes the next days, so that falls on me."

When analyzing why the Caps won the series, chances are travel is not going to be a reason many people consider. Perhaps there is some merit to this. After all, as the father of an infant, I can certainly vouch for how much of a difference one good night of sleep can make.

But perhaps there is another message being sent here by Tortorella.

Tortorella is a master at using the media to his advantage. He uses the media to send messages to his team or draw attention on himself and away from the players.

Tortorella just saw his young team give up a 2-0 series lead and lose four straight games. Those are the kind of losses that can stick with a player and create doubt in the mind of a team the next time they reach a tough spot in the postseason.

So what did Tortorella do? He came out and put the worst loss of the series on his own shoulders. Why was it his fault? Uh...travel? Yeah, let's go with travel.

The Blue Jackets are not the first team to play overtime on the road or the first team to deal with travel concerns. To hear a coach say it was a reason they lost a game and not even the next game after the travel? Well, that's a first.

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Alex Ovechkin's evolution as a player was on full display in Game 6

Alex Ovechkin's evolution as a player was on full display in Game 6

We all know that Alex Ovechkin is a world-class goal scorer. He is the best goal scorer of his generation and perhaps the best of all time.

He tallied another two goals Monday in the Capitals' 6-3 victory Game 6 over the Blue Jackets, but that’s not what really impressed head coach Barry Trotz.

While Ovechkin's career is full of highlight reel goals, it was the ugly plays that really caught Trotz's eye on Monday.

"[Ovechkin's] evolved in areas of his game," Trotz said after the game.

"He’s not just at that dot. He’ll go to the front of the net, he’s not scared to do that. It’s just adding layers to his game."

Ovechkin's first goal of the game was not pretty. It won't make any Top 10 lists, it won't be shown throughout the U.S. and Canada. It was an ugly rebound goal...and it was beautiful.

Just four minutes after Nick Foligno tied the game, Ovechkin put the Caps back ahead with a rebound goal. He parked himself in front of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and was in perfect position when Bobrovsky made a kick out save to backhand the rebound into the empty net.

Those are the type of plays we did not always see from "The Great 8." But his performance on Monday did not stop there.

As Washington attempted to shut the door on the game and the series, Ovechkin did what veteran leaders do, laying out to block a Ryan Murray shot with less than three minutes to go.

"I’m probably as proud of him right at the end of the game blocking shots and doing that type of thing," Trotz said. "That’s full commitment. When that was necessary, that’s where you get your street cred with your teammates. You’ve got to block a shot when it’s necessary and get a puck out when it’s necessary. I’d probably give him more props on that than even scoring goals because that’s what you really expect of him."

Few expected a 32-year-old Ovechkin to rebound from a 33-goal season, but he did just that with 49 goals in 2017-18 to win his seventh Rocket Richard Trophy as the league-leader.

The reason why was on full display on Monday. His game has evolved, as cliche as it sounds.

Instead of relying just on the quick rushes, pretty one-timers and incredible dekes, Ovechkin has committed more to getting to the contested areas. He's altered his game. He is scoring the type of ugly, dirty goals the Capitals desperately need in the playoffs.

That commitment on offense seemed to translate to the defense as well on Monday night. putting his body is a dangerous position laying out for blocked shots.

"Those are the necessary things, those necessary details that allow you to win," Trotz said. "If you don’t have them, then you’re not going to win."

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