- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chances are, the waning moments before Game 7 on Wednesday night between Washington and Pittsburgh didn’t include a speech from either coach or either captain that would peel the paint off the locker room walls and be so intense, the teams would storm onto the ice for the deciding game in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

The Caps especially have adopted an attitude that words are wasted.

Sure, they have leaders, such as captain Chris Clark and three-time Stanley Cup winner Sergei Fedorov, but starting with Bruce Boudreau, it’s become apparent the last month that hockey is different from other sports in the fire-and-brimstone category.

Some, such as the NFL, are all about pounding the drums and sounding the bugles before a big game, the coach putting together a video montage of big hits and movie scenes, and selected veterans giving passionate speeches.

The Caps just lace up their skates, go over strategy and play the game.



“Our room, for the most part, is pretty quiet,” Caps forward Brooks Laich said. “We aren’t a bunch of guys that have to give a rah-rah speech. We don’t need a vocal leader. We know what we have to do on the ice. It’s 20 leaders in the locker room.”

A natural voice would be Alex Ovechkin. He’s the team’s future captain but not yet the kind of player who will talk tactics between periods.

“I haven’t seen it,” Boudreau said. “The coaches aren’t in the room a lot but [I haven’t seen Ovechkin] stand up and say something profound other than cheering and saying, ‘Let’s go guys. Let’s win.’ I haven’t seen him walk around and say, ‘Guys, this is what we have to do,’ unless he’s echoing my statements.”

Fedorov became an instant mentor for his younger Russian teammates, but like Ovechkin, he prefers to do his guiding and advising via his actions.

“He’s a great leader, but he’s not going to get up and do his speech in the middle of the room,” Boudreau said.

Laich and two reporters had a short but spirited debate about the importance — or lack thereof — of determining which players are locker room leaders. He said the D.C. media are more concerned than the players are with which players are most vocal.

“At the trade deadline, it was, ‘They need a voice in the locker room with Clarkie out,’ ” Laich said.

Thing is, the D.C. sports scene is dominated by the Redskins, and they’re constantly talking about the importance of speeches and hokey stuff like making T-shirts with motivational messages.

During the second intermission of Game 7 against the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, several players talked to the team, which exhibited Laich’s theory that are 20 leaders in the room. Clark, Ovechkin, Fedorov and Brian Pothier spoke about the Caps seizing the moment.

Most of the time, the Caps are Team Do, not Team Talk.

“Anybody can talk and say anything,” Laich said. “It’s the guys who go out and do it — those are the guys you respect. … Guys are piping up here and there with little things, but nobody had to do anything to really rally the guys or have to get the guys up. We know what’s at stake.”

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