Like many players in the visiting locker room in MadisonSquareGarden on May 13, goaltender Braden Holtby knew that seventh and deciding game Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Rangers could be the final game for a handful of Capitals.
Two-and-a-half months later, the Capitals’ roster no longer has defensemen Mike Green and Tim Gleason, along with forwards Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer, Eric Fehr and Curtis Glencross.
“It’s always tough to see teammates go,” Holtby said after signing a five-year, $30.5 million contract extension to remain in Washington. “But I think in the case of the players that did leave, they went to good situations. They did what was best for them and that’s ultimately what you want to see for your friends – to do what’s best for them and their families.
“We’re going to miss those guys, but at the same time, guys come and go and you enjoy your time together while you have it.”
With Green now a member of the Detroit Red Wings, Ward now a San Jose Shark and Brouwer a member of the St. Louis Blues, the Capitals are taking on a new look with forwards T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams and Holtby likes what he sees.
“We’re vey thrilled with the additions we were able to make,” Holtby said. “Both guys (Oshie and Williams) seem very excited about what we’re doing in Washington and want to be a big part of it. We’re gong to need them as much as we need the rest of the team to succeed and we’re all looking forward to that.”
Last season the Caps finished second in the Metropolitan Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference with 101 points. But like every post-season since Alex Ovechkin led them back to the playoffs in 2008, the Caps failed to get past the second round, this time falling to the Rangers in overtime.
Holtby said his expectations for the Capitals are no different now than when he first arrived in D.C. as a member of the 2008 draft class.
“I don’t think they’ve changed” he said. “It’s been a long process and it usually is. At the start of last year we focused on just creating what we think is the best opportunity to win the Stanley Cup.
“We grew a lot as a team and as an organization last year in order to gain the experience and confidence to groom ourselves into an elite level team. We’re getting there. It’s not going to be easy after last year. We still have to keep pushing forward, finding ways to get better and finding what the secret is to win a Stanley Cup. That’s ultimately what pushes us as players and the whole organization – to try to get better and to try to figure out the winning formula and that’s what we’re going to do. As long as it takes we’re going to do it.”
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