The Washington Capitals — desperate for a win tonight in Pittsburgh — are vowing to stick to the plan, keep their composure, and not let a certain 21-year-old netminder get into their heads.
“I think that’s where this team has matured,” said coach Barry Trotz, per CSN Washington. “We have good poise. You’ve seen that all year with our team. We don’t get rattled often. We do get, I would say, very determined at times and we’ve shown a lot of resiliency all year. That’s why we were able to have the record we did. We didn’t let things bother us too much. And we’ve got a good leadership group that when things maybe aren’t going the way you want, they seem to be able to put it back on the rails for us. I think that’s the growth of our team the last two years.”
In Game 3, the Caps had every reason to feel like the hockey gods were out to get them. They put 49 shots on Penguins goalie Matt Murray, but were only able to beat him twice. They lost, 3-2, and now must win tonight in order to avoid falling into a 3-1 series hole.
In Game 4, the Capitals will have a major advantage, as their opponents will be without two of their top defensemen, Kris Letang (suspended) and Olli Maatta (injured).
So not only is it a game the Caps need to win, it’s a game they’ll be expected to win.
That means pressure.
And pressure, sometimes, can lead to panic.
According to Trotz, the Caps used to be guilty of exactly that. They’d change the plan when things didn’t go their way. They’d play too much as individuals. They’d play right into the opposition’s hands.
But not anymore.
“I think what this group has learned is that you stay to the plan, you execute and do the job well,” said Trotz.
“If you do that, it will turn your way.”