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."
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."