- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 12, 2015

As the Washington Capitals of the future ran drills and scrimmaged on the ice at the team’s development camp, the Capitals‘ two newest players also paid visits to the team’s practice facility over the weekend.

But right wings Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie weren’t thinking about the future. In both players’ first appearances with the Capitals after their acquisitions earlier this month, Williams as a free agent and Oshie via trade from the St. Louis Blues, it was apparent that they knew they were pieces of a team built to win big games and to win them soon.

“This team is ready to win, it looks like, and I’m happy to be an addition to that, be a piece of the puzzle,” Oshie said. “Meeting the coaching staff, they actually got me fired up and hoping the season would start a little earlier talking to them [Friday], so it’s really exciting for me right now.”

A deep playoff run has been the elusive goal, both of the Capitals, who haven’t made it out of the second round of the playoffs during the Alex Ovechkin era, and of Oshie, whose top-seeded Blues lost in the first round to the Minnesota Wild last season. The Blues are the oldest team to never have won a Stanley Cup and have missed the playoffs or lost in the first or second rounds every year Oshie had been with the team.

Oshie, who scored 19 goals and had 36 assists over 72 games last year, said that the hunt for a Stanley Cup was one of the first topics of conversation when he met with his new coaches and that he knows how deep the thirst for a championship can be for fans. The Capitals have also never won a Stanley Cup.

“I know in St. Louis the fans are getting a little restless,” Oshie said. “I’m sure the fans here want a Cup just as bad, so hopefully, this will be the year that we can bring it to them.”

Oshie has just nine points, five goals and four assists, in 30 career playoff games, despite his high overall production as a player.

But Williams, another winger with top-six skills, brings playoff experience and a knack for scoring in high-pressure situations into the mix. Williams has won three Stanley Cups — 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes and 2012 and 2014 with the Kings — and has never lost a Game 7. Williams is 7-0 in Game 7s and has scored seven goals and had seven assists.

General manager Brian MacLellan and coach Barry Trotz both said that, beyond Williams‘ pure skill, those experiences are an asset they prized highly in him as a free agent.

“He brings the elements that we’re looking for on our team in experience and playoff experience [and] Cup winning. I like the way he plays,” MacLellan said. “I think he’ll have a big effect on our young guys, you know, [Andre] Burakovsky and [Evgeny] Kuznetsov. I think he’ll have a good effect on Ovi and Backstrom, too, having been there and having had success at the highest level.”

MacLellan and Trotz said that lineup decisions have not yet been made. Either player could line up beside stars Ovechkin and Backstrom, or provide ammo to a young second-line centered by Kuznetsov.

Williams, who knows Oshie from playing against him in the Western Division with the Kings, was unconcerned by his new teammate’s lack of playoff success. Despite having taken the Blues out of the 2012 and 2013 Stanley Cup chases, he has vivid memories of Oshie’s skills.

“I know you guys in the East don’t really see him very much, but I’ve played a lot against him. We’ve played a couple playoff series against him, and I’ll remind him that I ended up on top. But he’s the little pit bull,” Williams said. “He hits like a truck and he can stick-handle through a phone booth. He’s got a lot of great qualities. I saw that, and I was instantly very excited. That’s what you want. You want some excitement. Obviously, a dynamic player offensively, but a guy who plays hard as well.”

Williams‘ assessment of Oshie as a bruising player fits with the descriptions MacLellan and Trotz gave of the player they are hoping Oshie will be for the Capitals. After trading winger Troy Brouwer for Oshie, along with goalie prospect Pheonix Copley and a third-round pick in the 2016 draft, the team is not as big or heavy as it was last season. The 6-foot-3 Brouwer alone was credited with 206 hits last season, while Oshie, at 5-foot-11, delivered 99.

But MacLellan and Trotz said that the team is not moving towards a lighter style of play and that Oshie is deceptively physical for his size.

“Great athlete,” Trotz said. “Brings lots of juice, if you will, to the game and has got a pretty decent speed element but his skill element, his one-on-one, just his compete. He’s heavy on the compete. I mean, he’s not maybe as big as a guy like Brouwer, but he is big-time heavy on the compete, and with his skill set he should be a real fun guy to have in our hockey club.”

With Oshie and Williams, the Capitals have added the scoring options around Ovechkin that were missed during the team’s most recent playoff exit. The team’s style is staying heavy. So are the expectations for it to succeed.

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