Now that he’s had a chance to reflect on the Washington Capitals’ 3-1 series collapse in the second round, Barry Trotz has been able to put his first season as head coach of the squad into perspective.
He saw some real positives from Washington in 2014-15. Braden Holtby was able to play like an elite goaltender, rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov took big strides forward, and Trotz felt the team’s best players grew as leaders as well.
“I think we didn’t cower from things, we looked things in the face when adversity hit our way,” Trotz told the Washington Post. “We sort of dealt with it head on, and we didn’t make excuses. That’s what I think we learned.”
And yet Washington can’t escape the fact that it once again was unable to reach the Eastern Conference Final. Another year of the Alex Ovechkin has been lost. So additional lessons are required.
“We said, ‘What lessons can we learn?’ ” Trotz said. “If we can learn anything, it’s that we’re still going to have to find that next level of killer instinct. We have a team like the Rangers on the ropes and how this series got there didn’t really matter, but I didn’t think we played as well in a couple of our wins that we did win, and we played quite well in some of our losses. It really doesn’t matter. You still have an opportunity at certain points where if you can knock out a team, you’ve got to find that next level of hardness, killer instinct, whatever. And I think we recognized it.”
Whether they’ll be able to do that remains to be seen, but in the meantime they have some matters to address over the summer. Holtby, Kuznetsov, Nate Schmidt, and Marcus Johansson are all set to become restricted free agents and they also have quite a few players that could potentially walk, including forward Joel Ward and defenseman Mike Green.