Captain Alex Ovechkin explained earlier this week that he felt the Washington Capitals didn’t deserve to go home yet.
But then on Friday Brooks Laich articulated it in the most common way: He and his teammates love the game, and they don’t want to hang up the skates and bring out the flip flops and golf shoes.
“Each day that you’re still here is an earned day. There are other teams that are sitting at home and you have to keep earning your days to play,” Laich said. “You step back and you think about it, you’re fighting for your right to continue to play hockey. I mean, if you don’t win, then the game of hockey is taken away from you and you are no longer allowed to play. That’s the basics of it.”
It’s almost too simple and too perfect of an explanation. The Caps went down without much of a fight last year against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but not this group. They’re one of five teams left in the playoffs.
“You’re playing for your life. You’re playing to continue to chase your dream,” Laich said. “It’s a tough thing to do, to eliminate a team, because their dream is to win the Stanley Cup, and to take that from somebody is a very tough thing to do.”
It’s something that will be tough for the New York Rangers to do, even with home ice and even with the historical advantage that the franchise has never lost a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden (4-0).
The Caps are playing with house money, the seventh seed that went into the playoffs with low expectations. The pressure is on the Rangers, so Washington’s locker room is loose.
“We’re right in the thick of things, in a Stanley Cup chase, playing good hockey against good hockey teams,” Laich said. “It’s a very exciting time of year.”