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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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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 

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Capitals listed as underdogs in their first Stanley Cup since 1998

Capitals listed as underdogs in their first Stanley Cup since 1998

The odds have never gone the way of the Washington Capitals.

After years of being the common pick to finally break through and win the Stanley Cup, this was most definitely not the year.

Yet, here we are with the Capitals as one of the final two teams standing.

For their upcoming Stanley Cup Final, the Caps are the underdogs against the Las Vegas Golden Knights.  The opening line from OddsShark has the Golden Knights as -135 money line favorites to win the Stanley Cup. The Capitals were listed as +115 underdogs.

Vegas (the betting entity, not the team) has not exactly been the most reliable this year though. After all, the Golden Knights were 100/1 odds to win the whole thing. Now they are four games away.

In their past two series, Washington was not the favorites. The Capitals have not been favorites since the First Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

For years in the Alex Ovechkin era, they have been the favorites to not only go on to play for the Stanley Cup but winning it.

In 2018 they started the season tied for the fifth best odds to win the Cup (14/1), one of their lowest opening marks in the past decade. For the full perspective, Washington was tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs and behind the Dallas Stars at the start of the season.

Without question this underdog role has fit them quite well, they shouldn’t want anything to change heading into the biggest postseason series in 20 years for Washington D.C.

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