The Washington Times - April 12, 2012, 01:01PM

BOSTON | In the locker room Wednesday and then on the ice Thursday as they moved to Boston’s TD Garden, the Washington Capitals gave off the aura of a team with nothing to lose. The seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, they’re unburdened by expectations going up against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” blared from speakers as the Caps stepped off the ice. But players didn’t want to call the atmosphere loose or light.


I don’t think it’s lighter. It’s the first game of the playoffs; everybody excited,” said captain Alex Ovechkin, who did not take part in the optional morning skate. “It’s a different season right now starting. Of course you prepare stuff to get ready and it doesn’t matter how, but you’ve got to be ready a hundred percent.”

The Bruins’ room, full of guys with Cup rings, gave off business-like tone.

We had a good skate, a short, heavy skate and just getting ready for tonight,” said captain Zdeno Chara, who cited the need for “composure” in Game 1.

Composure is key for the Caps, too. This core group has playoff experience, but defenseman Karl Alzner said he and his teammates addressed not making too big a deal out of this opener.

We didn’t want to put this game up high on a pedestal. I think that’s when guys get too tight and you don’t play as well as you can,” Alzner said. “Right now we’re just taking it as another game, the attitude you would see in any normal morning skate during the regular season, except it’s playoffs and we’re just a little bit more happy because it’s playoffs.”

Brooks Laich didn’t seem all too happy or chatty early Thursday afternoon, not surprising given how intense he usually is on game days.

We feel good,” Laich said. “Good morning skate, just like usual. Normal routine.”

Except it is the playoffs. Coach Dale Hunter makes his NHL postseason debut Thursday night, too.

“Playoffs is a special time as a player, as a coach. You just want to get the game going,” he said. “As a player you always want to come up big in the big times. And as a coach, you want to win in the playoffs.”