As hockey fans and players alike mourn what would have been the beginning of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Wednesday, Capitals head coach Todd Reirden has been preparing his players for what could be a jump right into the postseason when play resumes.
Checking in with players virtually, working with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish to curate at-home workouts and meeting with the coaching staff, Reirden has been prepping to play the Carolina Hurricanes. A rematch of last year's first-round series is currently how the matchups would fall if the NHL were to go right to the playoffs upon return.
“Obviously it’s a team that we’re familiar with from last year," Reirden said on The Sports Junkies on Thursday. "Obviously, it would be a good one for us to go against if that was the case. We feel we owe them one after last year.”
The defending champion Capitals were knocked out of the playoffs by the Hurricanes last season, which came down to a decisive Game 7. This season, the Hurricanes took the first two games, outscoring the Capitals 9-6 until Reirden put Ilya Samsonov in net, who got the Caps the last two wins.
“That's a team that we do know we did better as the year went on against them," Reirden said. "Finding a different way of making some systematic adjustments, a little bit of our style of play and more of the intricacies of looking at the power play, penalty kill, special teams, late-game situations against them with the way things that they want to do.”
But preparing for the playoffs without players being able to get some ice time poses a huge problem.
"That’s the one thing that you just can not simulate, the fact that these guys have not been on the ice and the chance of ramping it up right to playoff speed I think will be very difficult on their bodies and hard on some of the muscles that you’re not able to train by not being on the ice," Reirden said. "There’s some you can simulate but there’s nothing like getting out on the ice.”
While coronavirus has forced the world to take things one day at a time, Reirden says he, along with many others, just wants hockey back.
“To me, the big thing is I just want to play hockey again because that means that our world is in a better place than it was a month ago.”
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