It’s a safe bet Spanish-born philosopher George Santayana was not referring to Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals when he wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
We know this because the Capitals were not in existence when Santayana passed away in 1952.
But faced with a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night in New York, Capitals coach Barry Trotz suggested Monday that his players confront their past if they hope to change the course of their own history.
“I don’t see a Stanley Cup banner here yet,” Trotz after taking a break from meeting with his coaching staff to review Sunday night’s 4-3 loss to the Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifnals. “So you have to make your own history.”
Since Ovechkin first carried the Capitals back into the playoffs in 2008, the Caps have never been to the conference finals. They have held a two-game series lead four times during that span but have won just once.
And of the eight times Ovechkin and the Caps have gone to a Game 7, they have won just three times.
Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner says he believes this year’s team has a firmer resolve than any he’s been on in Washington and said the Caps’ furious comeback from a 4-1 deficit Sunday night was proof.
“A lot of teams would just roll over there and we found a way to make it a game at least,” Alzner saud. “It’s a way different team than we’ve had in the past. We all love each other and we want to win so bad that a loss like this, we forget about it. If we come out crazy and play hard – I think if we start [Game 7] the way we finished [Game 6] – we’ll see a better result.”
In their playoff history, the Caps are 4-9 in Game 7s, going 3-7 on home ice and 1-2 on the road. Their only Game 7 victory on the road came in the first round of the 2012 playoffs when Joel Ward scored in overtime to defeat the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. With Henrik Lundqvist leading the way, the Rangers have won five consecutive Game 7s and Lundqvist has allowed four goals in those five victories.
“I know people are going to write about, ‘Hey we haven’t done this.’ When we’ve been leading [a series] by two our record’s not very good as an organization,” Trotz said. “True, absolutely true.
“But we can change that. Just looking at some of the numbers, the odds are in our favor right now. We can change that history. I do believe the Boston Red Sox won a World Series, right? They had a long stretch there [86 years of the Curse of the Bambino] but they did win, right?
“The odds were in their favor at some point. That’s what I’m saying. The odds are in our favor. This group can do something. If you want to change history, if you want to change perception, you just go out and do it. I think that should motivate you, not bring you down. That, to me, should be very motivating.”
Before this season, NHL teams that have taken a 3-1 lead in a playoff series have gone on to win 248 of 275 series. Trotz said he’s rather feed that positive number than dwell on the Caps’ 4-9 record in Game 7s.
“Everybody brings it up, so why not just deal with it?” he said. “The history hasn’t been that great organizationally, so let’s change it. We’re the ones that can change it. What people think or perceive, you don’t have to accept it.
“If you’re determined and it means that much to you, let’s get it done. We use that term ‘feed the right wolf.’ Go feed the right wolf. All I can say is that I’ve been dealing with this group all year and I have a lot of respect for the group. Everybody in there, there’s a real special tie in the room and they will leave their best game out there. If their best game out there is good enough to win, … If it’s not good enough to win we can walk out and say, ‘Hey, we left it all there and there’s nothing left.’”