The Capitals arrived in the hub city of Toronto on Sunday and thus entered into the NHL bubble. From now until they are eliminated from the playoffs, Washington will be subject to strict health and safety protocols. Hotel X will be their home and they will not leave it except for practices and games. This is an undertaking unlike anything the sport has ever witnessed. Now with a full day and a practice under their belts, the initial impression of the Capitals of the setup in Toronto is overwhelmingly positive.
"It's been fun," John Carlson said Monday. "Just trying to get the feel for it. There's certainly a lot of space for us, a lot of different activities. I haven't quite checked everything out yet, but everything's smooth, the food is really good and we're enjoying ourselves."
"We just think about what we practice, get your food and then get some rest," Alex Ovechkin said. "Everything besides hockey they take care of it from us so it's good."
While comfort is certainly important considering this could be the players' homes until the conference final, the biggest consideration is safety. That is the point of the bubble and the hub city, after all, and that is what seems to have stuck out the most from the team's brief time within the bubble already.
"Talking to our players today, they're really impressed with the work that the NHL has done and Hotel X here in Toronto has been really on top of things," Reirden said. "I think we're off to a good start in terms of that, in terms of the safety of players, the testing that's gone on, it's been well organized and smooth."
"Safety is just what we expected," Carl Hagelin said. "It is unbelievable. Feels super safe here. It is the safest I’ve felt since this happened in early March."
The security that comes with feeling safe finally allows for the players to feel normal again for the first time in months.
The drawback to all of this is that the players will not be able to see their families for several weeks or even months depending on how deep into the postseason the team goes. But getting back on the road with the boys brings a feeling of normalcy the players have been missing.
"The first night was kind of tough because the last four months we spent with our kids and our wives or girlfriends," Ovechkin said. "But I'm pretty sure lots of guys was missing that moment stay together. Being on the road again, it's a cool thing."
Nothing about the 2020 postseason is going to be normal, but just to feel normal again is something so many of us have been missing for several months.
For the players, it may be hard to be away from family, it may be hard to be stuck in the same hotel for months, but, at least for now, the players feel safe. That's just one less thing they have to think about as they prepare for the task at hand.
Feeling safe brings a feeling of normalcy again for the players as they start the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"It was kind of weird getting onto the plane at first," Carlson said. "We haven't been on a plane in a long time. Just being in a hotel, haven't been in a hotel in a long time. So in that sense, yeah, it does feel a little bit more normal."
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