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Barry Trotz dismisses Mike Babcock's comments on the pressure being all on Washington

Barry Trotz dismisses Mike Babcock's comments on the pressure being all on Washington

Mike Babcock believes all the pressure is on the Caps. Barry Trotz doesn’t care what Babcock believes. Such is the war of words that is developing between the two coaches as their two teams prepare to meet in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Babcock has a daunting task ahead of him. With a team full of young stars, he must find a way to lead them to victory over the Washington Capitals, the top team in the NHL.

Before they even get on the ice, however, Babcock has to get his team to actually believe they can win.

There’s no questioning just how good the Caps are, but if the Leafs don’t bring any confidence with them to the series, they’ve already lost.

RELATED: Maple Leafs lose key player for Game 1 against Capitals

To that end, Babcock has an interesting take on how the pressure of the playoffs will benefit the Leafs.

“That ‘pucker factor’ is an unbelievable thing,” Babcock said to the media on Tuesday. “Until you’ve been the best seed, until you have your whole city expecting, you don’t know what’s that like and how good a defence that is for the underdog. It’s unbelievable.”

“I’ve been the underdog lots and won,” Babcock added. “I’ve been the Presidents’ Trophy winner (in 2006) and lost in the first round (to Edmonton). … My first year in Detroit, I’d never experienced anything like it and I couldn’t believe how we couldn’t skate or pass. So pressure’s a wonderful thing when you’re the underdog.”

So advantage Toronto? Trotz doesn’t think so.

Trotz responded to Babcock’s comments on Wednesday after practice and, spoiler alert, he disagrees.

“I listened to Babs' comments, he's playing you guys with that, but I think we can understand that,” Trotz said with a dismissive wave. “We expect ourselves to do well, that's the expectation that we put on ourselves. I don't think that's going to change. I think we're way more prepared for that, maybe than we were last year. I don't think that's going to be a big factor for us, we're going to leave our best game out there and that is key.”

There is something to be said for the pressure weighing on the Caps. They are the best team heading into the playoffs, they have never made it out of the second round in the Alex Ovechkin era, the clock is ticking for just how long Ovechkin can remain a superstar and this team is going to look very different next season due to several expiring contracts. This is Washington’s last best chance to win the Cup. If Toronto can steal a game or two from Verizon Center, that pressure will really begin to mount.

MORE CAPITALS: Carlson expected to return Thursday for Game 1

Trotz isn't buying it. In fact, he actually believes there’s less pressure on Washington this year than the year before given just how dominant they were in the regular season.

“There's a way different feel this year than last year, a way different feel,” Trotz said. “Last year there probably was a bit more pressure, and I don't think we were prepared, just because we had such a lead last year. I don't think we played as sharp as we were down the stretch.”

That’s not to say there’s no pressure, however, but Trotz isn’t concerned about that and certainly doesn’t see his team wilting in the first round because of it.

If you want to win in the NHL, pressure comes with the territory.

“We are trying to create the expectation to get to the next level and we haven't won a Cup, and that's something that this group has an opportunity to do,” Trotz said. “Other than that, we don't have anything other than the opportunity. Now we've just got to go out there and play."

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Despite late penalty, Todd Reirden doesn’t want to see Nathan Walker change his game

Despite late penalty, Todd Reirden doesn’t want to see Nathan Walker change his game

The Caps looked like they were in good shape in the third period on Wednesday. With a 3-2 lead in the final frame against a New York Rangers team that had played the night before, Washington looked like they were starting to wear down the blue shirts and tilt the ice in their favor.

But everything changed just before the midway point of the period.

Nathan Walker, in the lineup for the first time since Oct. 4, chased down Neal Pionk behind the Rangers net as Pionk went to collect the puck. Walker put his arms around the Rangers’ defenseman to slow him up and he was called for holding.

“That was the safest thing possible for me to do is to wrap him up and take him in the corner like that,” Walker said to NBC Sports Washington on Friday. “Personally, I didn't think it was a good call on the ref's side, but that's the way it goes.”

Just over a minute later, Chris Kreider deflected a shot that was going wide past Braden Holtby for the power play goal to tie the game at 3.

A third period mistake that tied the game from a player in and out of the lineup could have been a devastating moment for Walker, but head coach Todd Reirden was adamant after the game that he did not want Walker to lose his aggressiveness or change the way he plays as a result of Wednesday’s mistake.

“I insert him to be aggressive and his intensity was something we needed,” Reirden said. “I thought he won a lot of puck battles earlier in the game and at different points. He's pursuing the puck trying to force a turnover and it ends up as a call against. That's I think a tough call in that situation, but we're able to pick him up and if there's a guy on our team that we want to rally around and try to come back for, it's someone like that with a work ethic and just commitment and dedication and how he is as a teammate.”

Luckily for Walker, the Caps were still able to get the win thanks to Matt Niskanen’s overtime goal. Those were nervous moments for him watching as the team tried to overcome his mistake.

“It's definitely nerve-wracking for sure,” Walker said. “You kind of feel like you're the reason why they got back into the game. I personally thought we were all over them in the third period up until they got that goal. I think we still played really well, but obviously the play with the lead is a lot nicer than playing tied up 10 minutes to go in the third. It was nerve-wracking, but it was good that the guys came through and we got the two points at the end of the day so that's the main thing.”

The fact that Walker’s mistake did not end up costing the team will make it easier for Reirden’s message to sink in. It’s his aggressiveness that makes him valuable. One mistake should not make him change that aspect of his game.

Said Reirden, “It's something that if he stops hunting pucks and creating havoc up ice then he's just a very average player that's going to find himself in and out of the league.”

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Capitals vs. Panthers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Capitals vs. Panthers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Washington Capitals (3-2-1, 7pts) are coming off of an overtime thriller at home over the Rangers thanks to Matt Niskanen's crafty timing.

Through the first six games of the season, Washington is undefeated on Wednesdays, yet has failed to win consecutive games. The Caps hope to change that trend Friday night at home vs. the Florida Panthers (0-2-2, 2pts).

The Panthers have yet to win a game this season, with each of the four games being decided by just one goal. The Panthers have no problem scoring, netting at least five goals in two of the first four games, but have failed to seal the deal. This is where the defending Stanley Cup champions will need to capitalize.

Only the Maple Leafs (33) and Hurricanes (33) have scored more times than the Capitals (24). Washington has a clear advantage in firepower. The biggest key to victory is keeping the space in front of Braden Holtby clean as a whistle. If the Caps control their goalmouth, they should have no issues dispatching the Panthers.

Here is everything you need to know about the Friday night game, which takes place at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington. 

CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME: HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: Friday, October 19, 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Capitals-Panthers will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

Live Stream: Watch Capitals vs. Panthers on the NBC Sports Washington live stream page and the NBC Sports MyTeams App.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS-PANTHERS TV SCHEDULE:

6:00 PM: Caps FaceOff Live
6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
7:00 PM: NHL: Florida Panthers at Capitals 
9:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live
10:00 PM: Caps Overtime Live

CAPITALS vs. PANTHERS INJURY REPORT:

Capitals: Travis Boyd (OUT, IR), Tom Wilson (OUT, Suspension)

Panthers: Michael Haley (OUT, Leave of Absence), Roberto Luongo (OUT, MCL injury), Mike Matheson (OUT, Suspension) 

CAPITALS vs. PANTHERS PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Evgenii Dadonov, W, Panthers: Dadonov is leading the Panthers this season with two goals and two assists on the season.

John Carlson, D, Capitals: Carlson had a heck of a game vs. the Rangers Wednesday night with a goal and two assists. The Capitals worked on faceoffs in practice leading up to Wednesday night's game and all of the hard work paid off with Carlson's goal coming right off the faceoff from Backstrom. 

CAPITALS vs. PANTHERS SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time Meetings: 123

All-Time Series Record: 64-50-9

Playoff Record: N/A

Last Meeting: Panthers beat Capitals 3-2 (2/22/2018)

Last 10 Meetings: Tied 5-5 

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