One thing has been clear for the Washington Capitals during the early stages of the 2020-21 season: The team is having fun.
For former Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau, the current squad reminds him of the teams he coached during his time at the helm from the 2007-2008 season to 2012. That time may be better known as the beginning of the Rock the Red era.
“Our celebrations, I thought, very well reminded me of when Chara scored the other night," Boudreau said on NBC Sports Washington's Capitals Pregame Live.
Though it may seem like just yesterday, the Rock the Red era came about during the 2007-08 season when Boudreau took over as the head coach during the campaign. From there, Washington created an atmosphere that was filled with fun and success.
Celebrations like what happened with Chara were a big part of that team's identity, as Alex Ovechkin and company would treat every puck in the back of the net like a party. There was no shortage of excitement in any situation.
“The celebrations were dynamic, unique, everyone jumping on each other. It was so much fun to be a player on the Caps or a person associated with the Caps back then," Boudreau said. "And the fans were nuts. It was the best time of my life.”
Boudreau explained that a main reason Washington was able to play loose back then was partially due to the inexperience and youth on the team. Players didn't know any better than to have fun and enjoy each moment, and with Boudreau unsure if he was going to stay at the NHL level long-term, he did the same.
“We didn’t know any better at that time," Boudreau said.
The current Capitals team isn't filled with that same type of roster, as veterans who have reached the pinnacle of success and experienced defeat make up most of the group on the ice. However, former Capitals goalie Brent Johnson has a theory as to how that energy from the Rock the Red era has come back.
With this year's team, it's all about playing for each other.
“It really comes down to, you guys say fun, I really think it comes down to care and support," said Johnson, who started with the Capitals in 2005 and played for Boudreau from 2007-2010.
“This team has that care for one another, they want to obviously go out and do their jobs but they’re right there to stick up for that other guy if he goes down or can’t make that play," Johnson said. "It’s a great support system.”
Additionally, what Johnson believed helped him and others was a change in coaching.
“After you have a coach for so long, things can get stale...things aren’t fun," Johnson said.
With Boudreau arriving, there was a new sense of energy and excitement in the air. All of the sudden, players were excited to get to the arena each day and play.
This season, the Capitals are under a new leader in Peter Laviolette, and it appears that his presence has positively impacted the way Washington performs on the ice. Early on, he's worked hard to have fun with his players while keeping them accountable.
There may be no fans in attendance to truly recreate the Rock the Red era this time around, but from what the Capitals have shown early on, the fun that captivated players, coaches and spectators alike has returned.