When T.J. Oshie took to the ice on Monday for the round robin game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, he did so with an "A" on his chest. With John Carlson out, his A went to Oshie. It was not a major talking point before the game and was mentioned only briefly afterward by head coach Todd Reirden. Oshie taking the A wasn't a major storyline not because no one cared, it was because no one needed Oshie to wear a letter to know he was a leader.
In the second period against the Tampa Bay, Oshie dropped the gloves with Tampa Bay forward Yanni Gourde in the second period while the Caps were down 2-0 and struggling to find any intensity in their game. Less than five minutes later, the game was tied at 2. It was the clear turning point of the game and helped the Caps earn a point in a game that looked like it was getting away from them.
"He has an A on his jersey without Carlson and clearly a leadership move right there and the results speak for themselves," head coach Todd Reirden said. "He does a tremendous job with our leadership group and that was another signal of the type of person he is, the character he has.”
The energy Oshie brings to a team is evident. You can watch his interviews, see his interactions with his family or even check out the butt tap. That type of energy is contagious and goes a long way towards loosening a team up and giving them confidence in key moments.
"He is a great teammate and everything he does inside the locker room on a daily basis that everyone doesn’t get to see," Nicklas Backstrom said, "He is always positive, comes in with a lot of energy."
He added, "[Oshie] brings everything to the table."
But it's not just about what he does off the ice that makes him a leader.
Oshie has fought before, but no one would label him a "fighter." It's not something he does not do often -- his last fight came back in May of 2018 against Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang -- but he did it when the team needed it on Monday and that's what makes Oshie a leader.
If the team needs a goal, Oshie scores. If the team is in a shootout, Oshie always goes. If the team needs a fight, he drops the gloves.
That fight against Letang? It came in the final minute of Game 4 in the second-round series against the Penguins. After that game, Washington would not lose to Pittsburgh again.
When it comes to talking about the Caps as a contender, we can talk about the skill they have, the size, the speed, etc., but there's something else to consider: The leaders. The fact that the Caps can turn to someone like Oshie to wear the A when needed is a sign of the amount of leadership on the roster. And that's not even including guys like Braden Holtby, Lars Eller or Tom Wilson, a player many believe will be the next C after Ovechkin.
In terms of leaders, Washington is full of them.
And that's evident when a player like Oshie steps onto the ice wearing an A and no one notices. That's because he's always been a leader and it doesn't take wearing a letter for his teammates to recognize it.
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