Forget the hyperbole, this is a must-win for the Washington Capitals. This really is playoff hockey, and the Caps really are facing elimination in Game 6 Wednesday night against the New York Rangers.
“We have to approach it as we need to win,” Troy Brouwer said.
The approach seems a bit different than past important outings, even going into Game 7 of the Boston Bruins series. This wasn’t a loose group, though players and coach Dale Hunter didn’t call that a bad thing.
“It’s more serious today. Everybody, we realize how important this is and we’re making sure everybody’s on,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It’s a do-or-die game for us, so we’re all pretty intense. Obviously we want to do and not die, so we’re ready for it.”
Captain Alex Ovechkin admitted the Caps approach an elimination game differently.
“Well, of course. You don’t want season to start over for next year. And you don’t want season be ended tonight,” he said. “ Right now everybody knows and everybody understands we just can’t go home right now.”
The pressure was palpable. John Carlson said Tuesday it’s always there, but this is the first time these Caps have been in this exact situation: on the brink with their opponent not facing elimination.
“We know what’s at stake. You don’t have to say much,” Hunter said. “You’ve got to go out there and play your game. Nothing better than being under pressure because that’s the best part of it.”
The Caps hope they can embrace that pressure because, after all this, they don’t want it to end Wednesday night at Verizon Center.
“I don’t think we deserve to end the season right now. Everybody knows, I think, we good hockey club. We beat Stanley Cup champion in seven game at home. And we get that kind of confidence,” Ovechkin said. “I don’t feel right now anybody think ‘Jesus Christ it’s gonna be over yet.’ ”