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'It's a deep sigh of relief': With the trade deadline past, it's back to business for the Capitals

'It's a deep sigh of relief': With the trade deadline past, it's back to business for the Capitals

ARLINGTON, Va. -- After taking a 3-0 lead on Tuesday, the Capitals watched as the Winnipeg Jets came storming back to tie the game at 3-3. Suffering from a prolonged slump since the end of December, the game was unfolding into another ugly loss for a team that, despite its talent, just could not seem to find its way. This time, however, the collapse was halted. The Caps did not lay down and managed to battle to a 4-3 shootout win.

While blowing a 3-0 lead is nothing to celebrate, the team showed more resiliency than they have shown for two months and forward Garnet Hathaway knew why.

“It's after the trade deadline,” he said. “The guys in this room are the guys that we're going to win with. So that's the mentality right now, we've got to stick to our guns and play to our identity.”

The trade deadline is a time of uncertainty for many players around the league, many of whom don’t know when they wake up on Monday morning if they will still be playing for the same team by 3 p.m. or suddenly have to uproot themselves and their families.

That uncertainty is not just limited to each individual, it can affect an entire team.

“I think with everybody in here, I would say there's definitely a lot of guys probably have a good feeling, 'OK I'm not going to get traded or I am getting traded,'” center Nic Dowd said. “But I'd say the underlying issue is, I hope they don't bring anybody in that's like myself. That's probably what everyone's kind of looking like. As soon as they see 'Washington Capitals trade for' you're like, 'oh, who is it?' and 'is he my position?'”

“I think that players will very rarely discuss the fact that it's bothering them or they're thinking about it, but they're only human as well,” head coach Todd Reirden said. “I think it's a deep sigh of relief for players and now we're ready to move forward knowing this is our group and this is what we're going with.”

Washington is a team with its sights set on a Stanley Cup. That meant they were a team looking to add. But even with the majority of players knowing they would not be moved, the deadline still brings with it uncertainty; uncertainty over where you stand in the lineup, uncertainty over which teammates will still be around after the deadline, uncertainty over what the team will ultimately look like at 3:01 p.m.

Once the deadline passes, however, that distraction is gone and suddenly a team can regain its focus knowing now is the time to focus on the task at hand.

“Now we know that there isn't anymore moving parts,” Reirden said. “Sure, we're going to have to deal with injuries or any other issues, suspensions or different things that go on. That's hockey. But, for the most part, this is our group that we believe in and we think has a really good chance. It's a different vibe after. I can tell you that for sure.”

“The trade deadline pretty much is just kind of a distraction a little bit for everyone,” defenseman Nick Jensen said. “So once that's kind of out of the way, there's a sense like it's back to focusing on this final stretch before playoffs. Every team, they're set for the rest of the season. Every team's trying to make their push for the playoffs so there's kind of that sense like, here we go. This is it.”

That certainty also brings with it a sense of unity.

Nothing can replace the bonding that happens between teammates over the course of a full 82-game season, but after the trade deadline has passed comes the realization that this is the team. Whatever happens from here to the postseason and beyond is going to happen with the players who are now on the roster.

There are no more reinforcements coming.

“This is our team, this is who we're going with,” Jensen said. “It's time to bear down and put yourself in as best position as possible to compete in the playoffs.”

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Trade, coronavirus makes for tumultuous year for Caps' defenseman Brenden Dillon

Trade, coronavirus makes for tumultuous year for Caps' defenseman Brenden Dillon

This is not the way Brenden Dillon envisioned his year going. At the start of the season, he had Stanley Cup aspirations with the San Jose Sharks. Now he is stuck in a hotel in Arlington, Va., on the other side of the country both from where he started and from where he calls home.

"What a year it's been, really," Dillon said in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. "I think for anybody, not just myself or not just a hockey player or a Sharks player specifically, if you were to talk to us in August what things would be like come March time, what it would be. I think it's just at this stage with how everything's gone for me, I almost feel like a little bit of just a lone ranger with where I'm at."

Dillon has been with the Sharks since getting traded by the Dallas Stars in November 2014. During his time there, he made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons including a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016. After several years there, San Jose began to feel like home. That was evident in the emotional postgame interview Dillon gave when contemplating if he had just played his last game with the Sharks.

"Leaving San Jose, I was there for a long time, had a home there, had everything kind of stability," Dillon said.

He added, "It's not just somewhere that you work, it's not just somewhere that you move to for hockey. It becomes your home, it becomes your family, your teammates. It becomes second nature where the streets, the people you meet not just at the rink but at the grocery stores, the mall, whatever it might be. You really build those relationships and then really with one phone call your life can completely change."

That phone call came on Feb. 18 when the Capitals traded for the veteran defenseman to shore up the team's blue line.

The trade itself wasn't a surprise. On an expiring contract and with the team being where they were in the standings, Dillon knew he was likely to get traded. When he got word he was going to Washington, he was excited for the opportunity, but that transition to a new team is rarely an easy one.

"You're going from, in my case, one side of the country to the other," Dillon said. "You're going and meeting 22, 23 new coworkers that you're going to see every day. I was very lucky to come to a team like Washington where, when I did come out this way, the guys, I was sitting right in between [Alex Ovechkin] and [John Carlson]. It was pretty cool to be a part of that. I think just the opportunity for me on the ice, it was a perfect fit for my kind of game, being able to skate, move pucks and play my physical brand of hockey. I think it was pretty seamless."

Now that transition has been put on hold as life decided to throw another monkey wrench Dillon's way with the spread of the coronavirus.

With the season paused, Dillon has stayed in an Arlington hotel trying to stay in shape and adjust to his new life. But he is making the best of it with his new teammates.

"There's been a lot of guys here who even during this time, whether it's just a few of us getting together and playing some tennis in the area," Dillon said. "I mean there's a good chunk of guys that are still in town so it's kind of been nice to at least have a little bit of that other than staring at a wall. I've done more puzzles and watched more Netflix than I think a lot of people could. I think though when it does come to the actual hockey part of things, it has been good out here. "

Dillon's mentality has remained positive through it all.

Though emotional about leaving San Jose, Dillon is excited about the chance to come to Washington to compete for a Cup. After a few weeks, he has a good idea of where the good spots are for food in Arlington and Washington, and he is thankful for his new teammates who have made an effort to make him feel welcome.

Dillon is excited for the opportunity that lays before him, he is just anxious to get going again.

"It was fun to be a part of a lot of success in San Jose for the five, six years that I was there," Dillon said. "I will forever cherish that time, from the fans to the city and I'll definitely go back and visit and see some of my friends that are in the town. But to come out here, already it's been a great, great group of guys from management to the coaches to the players specifically too. Really made me feel at home."

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Donut miss this: The best T.J. Oshie photo edits after 2-goal simulation game

Donut miss this: The best T.J. Oshie photo edits after 2-goal simulation game

Everyone loves a good donut, whether glazed, frosted or just plain old-fashioned (if you’re into that sort of thing). You know who really loves donuts? T.J. Oshie and his family.

Back when hockey was still being played, Oshie’s daughter Leni challenged her dad to score a goal and she would get him a donut in return.

Sure enough, he scored and they enjoyed what looked to be one of the best donuts ever eaten.

Now that we have entered the world of simulated hockey, Oshie’s pair of goals in NBC Sports Washington’s simulated game against the Rangers Thursday night meant we were going to see some donuts today.

The Capitals social team took it the next step, tweeting out a cut out photo of TJ Oshie celebrating and put it in front of a picture of a shelf full of donuts. From there, Caps fans went to work. Here are some of the best creations from Capitals nation.

Celebrating alongside his Nationals brethren as they won the World Series last November.

Oshie meeting Santa for the first time!

An excited Oshbabe hitting the dollar on the big wheel and earning that cool $1,000 on the Price is Right.

In the front seat of a roller coaster.

Seeing a fully-stocked shelf of soup at the grocery store.

And even better, TOILET PAPER!!

"Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound!" It’s Super Donut Man.

Big fan of his own shirt chug at the parade!

Wait Krispy Kreme sponsors who?!?! Get this man a donut deal STAT.

And I might be a little biased, but my personal favorite: T.J. being a little jealous that his best friend is smooching his other best friend.

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