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Capitals welcomed on White House visit to celebrate Stanley Cup

Capitals welcomed on White House visit to celebrate Stanley Cup

WASHINGTON – The Capitals made their long-awaited visit to the White House on Monday to celebrate their 2018 Stanley Cup. 

Players, coaches and team owners and executives surrounded President Trump and the Stanley Cup, which stood on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. The event came just 16 days before Washington begins its defense of the Cup when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin on April 10. 

“We welcome most importantly the entire Capitals team,” President Trump said. “They're winners. They know how to win and I think you're going to see that starting in a little while.”

The Capitals arrived at The White House at about 2 p.m. for a 45-minute tour of the West Wing. After that, they waited in the Roosevelt Room until summoned to the Oval Office to meet Trump, who lauded their 2017-18 season, noted their win over the rival Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round and asked “How are they doing?”

Trump asked captain Alex Ovechkin, defenseman John Carlson and owner Ted Leonsis to say a few words. He ribbed NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. And, no, the team was not fed fast food as some of the college championship teams have been in recent months, especially during the 35-day government shut down in December and January. 

All Capitals players still on the team and eligible to attend were there save for goalie Braden Holtby and forward Brett Connolly. Devante Smith-Pelly, who scored the game-tying goal in the decisive Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, is in the minors with AHL Hershey and previously said he would not attend.  

A clean-cut Ovechkin was compared to Babe Ruth by Trump for his combined 64 goals last year between the regular season and Stanley Cup playoffs. Trump also said daughter Ivanka is a big fan of the Washington captain. Ivanka Trump was in attendance. President Trump compared Carlson to Hockey Hall-of-Famer Bobby Orr, but Carlson, who was born in Massachusetts, knew better than to let that comparison to the Boston sports legend go. 

“He’s a LOT better than me,” Carlson said. 

“My speech is gonna be much easier than it was in the [championship] parade,” Ovechkin said, referencing his profane, entertaining ode to the fans last June 12. “But thank you very much for having us. It's huge honor for us to be here and meet you personally. We're gonna try to do it again. We have same team, experienced team, very good group of guys and we're gonna try to do it again.”

After select media members were let into the Oval Office for a photo opportunity, Capitals players and staff took individual photos with the President and were able to have brief conversations with him. Players were given souvenir pens and candy. 

"You brought the Stanley Cup home. Thousands of adoring fans greeted you. They were all over the place,” Trump said. “And I have a feeling you're going to be doing it again. You're champions. You have a champion's heart…and I just want to wish you a lot of luck. In Washington that's all that they want to talk about. They don't want to talk about anything else. I can't get the subject on to anything else, so you've got to win quickly because we've got to get back to work.” 

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The Carolina Hurricanes have brought their good luck pig to Game 7

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@hamiltondtr

The Carolina Hurricanes have brought their good luck pig to Game 7

When Carolina Hurricane's fans Kyle Eckenrode and Karoline Briggs brought their adopted pig Hamilton to Games 3 and 4 in Raleigh, N.C. to help the 'Canes win, they created a good luck charm that resulted in three wins at home.

Hamilton even made an appearance inside PNC Arena for Game 6 for photos with fans.

The charm worked so well that fans created a Change.org petition to bring Hamilton to DC. But Caps fans warned they'd turn Hamilton into their dinner if he made it to the District.

“My worry is that I’m going to get up there and people are going to yell and throw bacon at him or something like that," Eckenrode told Scott Allen of the Washington Post. "I’d hate for that to happen, because he is a creature. Pigs are really emotional, and he’s my pet. I don’t want him not trusting me anymore.”

Despite Caps fans threats, Hamilton made the trek to D.C. with his owners to try and give the 'Canes an extra boost against the Capitals before Game 7.

Hamilton spent his day on the mall, taking in the Capitol building and the Supreme Court.

Hamilton won't be allowed in Capital One Arena due to it's strict limitations. The arena only allows service animals inside, and they did not make an exception for Ovie the Bulldog last season. Additionally, DC Code requires an exotic animal permit for pigs, which can take up to a week to obtain.

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With the season on the line, the Capitals remain confident heading into Game 7

With the season on the line, the Capitals remain confident heading into Game 7

ARLINGTON, Va. – While Capitals fans woke up breathing into paper bags on Wednesday trying not to hyperventilate, the team was all smiles as it skated onto the ice for the morning skate. While the curse of playoff failures past still clearly resonates through a nervous fan base, there was nothing but confidence coming out of MedStar Capitals Iceplex.

“It’s a positive mood,” Carl Hagelin said. “But at the same time, you can see that guys are focused. I think that’s a big part of it, too, being focused going in and knowing that first shift is going to be key.”

The newfound confidence stems from last year’s playoff success which included a dominant 4-0 Game 7 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final.

“I think the last year experience what we have against Tampa helps a lot,” Alex Ovechkin said. “We have the same motivation, we have the same atmosphere. Of course it's not for Stanley Cup Final, it's for second round."

“Until you go through it and you've had success, then you can only talk so much about it,” head coach Todd Reirden said. “Eventually you have to go through it. Our core group has gone through it, and we'll use that as a positive tonight and go about our business."

Unlike last year’s Game 7, however, this one will come in Washington which should give an advantage to the Caps.

The home team has gone 6-0 in this series thus far and Washington has looked like two different teams playing at Capital One Arena and in Raleigh.

While the true advantage of home-ice throughout the league is debatable, clearly it has mattered in this series and, according to the team, the importance of having the home crowd certainly matters to them.

“When the fans cheering for you in your big moment, block shots or kill the penalty and the fans get into it right away, you feel it and it gives you more energy and motivation," Ovechkin said.

"Home ice has been a big advantage in this series,” Reirden said. “I expect our crowd to give us the lift that they have thus far. Right from the start of the playoffs they've given us a boost, I think different than in past years, and it's allowed us to have more success at home.”

One player who will need to step up his game if the Caps hope to extend their season will be Evgeny Kuznetsov. One of the most dominant players in last year’s postseason, Kuznetsov has been held to just five assists and no goals in six games.

Kuznetsov enters Game 7 knowing he needs to be better than he has been to this point.

“I think that is how everyone feels when you lose a game in the playoffs,” he said. “You always feel like you did something wrong and you are not fully there and you know it.”

While the pressure of a Game 7 can wear on some players, however, Kuznetsov said that he looks forward to these moments. Kuznetsov was the Game 7 hero in 2015 when he scored the game and series-winning goal against the New York Islanders.

“Game 7 is Game 7,” Evgeny Kuznetsov said. “It is fun to play.”

In the past we have seen a tentative Capitals team take the ice, play tight and collapse when things did not go their way. A more experienced team will take the ice on Wednesday knowing that things will not go completely their way in the game, but with the confidence that they are good enough to overcome those obstacles, win and advance.

“I just think unexpected stuff happens and being mentally tough is really important in these games and just having confidence and trust in one another,” John Carlson said. “A lot can go astray, a lot can change quickly and with both of the teams’ backs against the wall, that’s what you rely on and fall back on.”

“You’ve got to be prepared for everything,” Reirden said. “In this situation you need to come back to your foundations as a group, as a system, as a team. That never changes, regardless of what happens within the game. So you've got a system and that's your security blanket, and you've got that structure in place. Where the game goes from there is going to be decided by the players executing that system and that game plan. Every [Game 7] plays out a little bit different. There's crazy swings. It's a fun time to be playing in these type of games and our guys will grow from it no matter what."

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