The Capitals officially entered into Phase 2 of the NHL's return to play plan on Thursday, almost exactly three months after the league paused the season. Now the players will have about a month to prepare for training camp after three of not being able to skate at all. That’s not going to be an easy transition to make.
While the coronavirus pandemic has limited the way all professional athletes have been able to train, No sport has been more affected by this than hockey where players have not been able to get access to ice in order to skate. John Carlson revealed on an episode of the Lunch Talk Live Podcast that he had not even been on skates since March 12 when the league paused the season, making Thursday just the first time. He, along with Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller all were on the ice Thursday for the first day MedStar Capitals Iceplex was allowed to host players.
Like Carlson, many players have not been able to skate during the pause.
“I’m not doing much right now, to be honest,” Braden Holtby said in a video conference on May 4. “In the summer, I typically take a few months off completely anyway just to try and get my mind off completely away from everything. It’s going to be tough once there’s kind of a gameplan in play where we have a bit of time where we know we’re going to come back to figure out ways to see enough shots or see anything.”
The job of a goalie is particularly hard to simulate away form the ice where Holtby can’t skate or face shots.
But with all the uncertainty that came with the pandemic, the pause to the NHL season could prove beneficial to a veteran-laden team like Washington.
While a younger team would not struggle to find that extra gear in the postseason, it is fair to wonder if a Caps team that features veterans like Carlson (30), Holtby (30), Alex Ovechkin (34), Nicklas Backstrom (32) and T.J. Oshie (33), would be able to find as much energy. That has not been an issue in years passed, but there will be a year when the team needs to dig deep and the older players just won’t be able to anymore. A three-month-and-counting pause will mean rested legs for every player as they come back onto the ice.
For veterans who have perfected their approach to the offseason, ramping up for the postseason will not feel all that different than normal, it just will come at a different date on the calendar.
In a video conference with Oshie on April 20 he was asked how long it would take him to be ready for the playoffs and he answered, “it wouldn’t take me long.”
“in a week for sure I’d be ready to step right into the playoffs and I think be able to make a difference,” he said.
One player who fans should not be worried about is Ovechkin. In terms of timing, things seemed to line up well for Ovechkin who had his personal trainer in town already when the season came to a screeching halt.
“Last couple years before the playoffs, my personal trainer came to Washington and start workout with me before the playoffs to get ready for that period of the season,” Ovechkin said in a video conference on March 26, “But with this situation, like he is here and I am lucky enough to have him here and we do some workout at the gym in my house. I have a small gym and we just go run on the street and play some soccer ride the bike and just try to get busy, you know?”
Ovechkin and his family eventually went to Miami, but Ovechkin’s wife, Nastya, has been documenting on Instagram how hard Ovechkin has been working to remain in shape for when the season resumes. Since Phase 2 began, he has also been on the ice in Florida.
If Ovechkin is ready to go, that will be a good starting point for the rest of the team to catch up.
“You never know when the season is coming back and you have to be in shape, so try to do my best,” Ovechkin said. “It is kind of hard to be honest with you, but in this situation you have to take it the best way you can.”
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