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Williams, Richards give 'street cred' to the Caps


Williams, Richards give 'street cred' to the Caps

As the Capitals prepare to open the postseason Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers, they will not only be chasing the Stanley Cup, but also running from their past playoff struggles. The lack of success Washington has had in the playoffs by now is well documented, but this year an organization that doesn't seem to know how to win when it counts is coming armed with two players who certainly do: Justin Williams and Mike Richards.

As the saying goes, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. That was the philosophy the Caps took when it came to signing Williams in the offseason and bringing Richards out of NHL purgatory in January.

"It's important to have those kind of guys who know how to win the Cup and have been in different positions," Alex Ovechkin said Thursday after the team's optional skate.

The playoff success of Williams and Richards is well known. The two were teammates in Los Angeles when the Kings won the Cup in 2012 and 2014. Williams also won one in Carolina in 2006 and is known as "Mr. Game 7" for his 7-0 record in Game 7s in the playoffs.

That kind of experience carries a lot of weight in the Capitals' locker room.

"I think it's really good for us to have two guys to know how it is to win, what you have to do to win," Andre Burakovsky said. "...We've got a couple of guys who knows what it takes to win the Cup, what we have to sacrifice and how we have to play and prepare for the games."

RELATED: Taking a look back at Capitals-Flyers rivalry

Experience is something that sounds good on paper and leads to a few more bucks in a contract, but what does it really mean? For the Caps, it means learning what to do when the team inevitably begins to face adversity.

"Through any playoff run you're going to have adversity and the more of those guys that have succeeded through adversity in the playoffs that we have in this locker room, the better chance we have of fighting through it," Braden Holtby said.

Williams didn't go 7-0 in Game 7s by breezing through the playoffs. In each of those games, his team's back was against the wall as they faced elimination. It's a situation the Caps have struggled with in the past.

Their presence also takes the pressure off of some of the younger stars. That type of experience can have a calming affect on the rest of the team, especially the younger players who can often be overcome by their emotions in the playoffs.

"Young guys can feel more comfortable on the team," Evgeny Kuznetsov said, even after last year's breakout performance in which he tallied five goals and two assists in his first NHL postseason.

After last year's collapse in which the Caps fell to the New York Rangers in seven games despite taking a 3-1 series lead, it looked like the same ol' Caps.

New coach, new regimes, same story.

And yet, as the Caps prepare for the playoffs after another stellar regular season, this year feels different. The reason? Because now the Caps have players who know how to win.

"There's 'street cred,'" head coach Barry Trotz said. "I think when things get a little bit hectic they have that ability to settle everybody down and they have a voice in the dressing room so they're good voices to have, voices of experience and voices of success."

Their presence gives the Caps a sense of confidence as they enter the playoffs even after so many disappointing seasons.

Said Ovechkin, "We know exactly how we have to play to get success."

MORE CAPITALS: 'Mature' Capitals ready to fight off recent playoff heartbreak

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Red Wings

3 reasons the Caps beat the Red Wings

Not much separated the Washington Capitals and the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. A late 2-on-0 goal for Brett Connolly proved to be the difference.

Here's why the Caps ultimately walked away with the 1-0 win.

A first period goalie interference call

Andreas Athanasiou thought he had given the Red Wings a first period lead, but Barry Trotz challenged the call for goalie interference. The review showed that Tyler Bertuzzi clipped Philipp Grubauer in the head with an elbow right before the shot went in. Given how long it took the Caps to get going in this game, it is fair to say an early deficit would have been hard to overcome.


Killing off a full two-minute 5-on-3

Two man advantages are hard to kill. Killing off a full two-minutes at 5-on-3, that's a tall task. With the game still scoreless in the second period, T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller were both assessed penalties giving Detroit two-full minutes at 5-on-3. The Red Wings managed four shots on goal, but Washington was able to successfully kill off the penalty and keep the game scoreless.

Philipp Grubauer

There were few players who had strong efforts on Tuesday, but Grubauer was phenomenal. Even when the game felt sleepy in the first two periods, Detroit still managed 28 shots on goal, all of which were turned aside by the German netminder. When Washington finally took the lead in the third, the Red Wings woke up and began pushing the offense, but Grubauer was in the zone at that point and could not be beaten. His best save came in the third period when he stared down a breakaway from Athanasiou and extended the pad to deny the shot.


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Tarik's 3 stars: Grubauer, Caps shut down the Red Wings

Tarik's 3 stars: Grubauer, Caps shut down the Red Wings

It wasn’t pretty but the Caps eventually got what they needed in Detroit: two points.  

After a sleepy first 40 minutes, Brett Connolly scored midway through the third period and then Philipp Grubauer made sure it stood up at Little Caesars Arena, where Washington eked out a 1-0 victory Thursday over the scuffling Red Wings.


Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Philipp Grubauer, Capitals

For much of the game, Grubi was left to fend for himself. Good thing for the Caps he was up to the task. The German netminder, who has been one of the NHL’s top goaltenders since Thanksgiving, turned aside 39 shots, including three stops on a pivotal 5-on-3 penalty kill in the second period.

2-Brett Connolly, Capitals

The Caps didn’t get many Grade-A opportunities vs. Jimmy Howard. But Connolly buried one of the few they got…on a 2-on-0, set up by Jakub Vrana in the third period.

Connolly’s goal was his 15th of the season in his 63rd game, equaling the career-high he set a year ago in 66 contests. Vrana, meantime, has three goals and five assists since getting scratched 12 games ago.

3-Lars Eller, Capitals

Eller didn’t record a point, but he was all over the puck in Motown. The veteran center finished with a game-high six shots on net. He also had a key backcheck against Darren Helm, on a shorthanded breakaway, in the first period.

Eller was good in the dot, too, winning eight of 12 faceoffs.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.