NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
The Capitals have started the 2020-21 NHL season strong. Through three games they have five points and were nearly perfect if not for a shootout loss to the Penguins.
Since their Stanley Cup title in 2018, the playoffs, however, have not been good to them. They were ousted in the First Round the last two postseason — first by the Hurricanes in 2019, and then last summer by the Islanders.
Now in his sixth season with the Capitals, T.J. Oshie has seen the team rise into champions, and deal with bumps along the way. With Peter Laviolette behind the bench now and their Cup window still open, the veteran forward sees a path back to the franchise’s championship winning ways.
“There’s a certain way I think a championship team carries themselves and we got away from that,” Oshie said. “I think you don’t focus a lot on mistakes. You don’t let things weigh you down. You just keep pushing forward. And I think the last couple years we’ve let some stuff get to us and take away from how good of a team we are. And it’s time for us to refocus, if we want to get back to the top and really get everyone all in.
“When we won, I think you can look at every team that made playoffs. And we probably weren’t the most skilled or the fastest, but we had everyone all in and that’s what we need this year.”
Oshie took questions from NHL TV rightsholders before the season began. Here are his thoughts on watching Alex Ovechkin’s goal quest, playing with Zdeno Chara, and the 2022 Olympics.
Q. What has it been like having a front row seat to Alex Ovechkin skyrocketing up the all-time goals list?
OSHIE: “Well, I tell O, probably once a week, that I can’t wait to tell my grandkids that I played with the big man. So it’s been unbelievable. His ability to stay at the top as far as a pure goal scorer and constantly wowing the crowd. I’m sure even when we’re only on TV, when O gets the puck out there, people are standing up off their couch and you don’t want to miss a moment of it. And it’s the same for us on the bench or on the ice with him. So, it really has been a pleasure and an honor to see him not only score all these goals and go up all these ranks, but grow as a leader, as a person, as a player. It’s been an honor.”
Q. What about the opportunity to play with a legend like Zdeno Chara?
OSHIE: “Probably as big as he’s going to be, it’s going to be real awesome. I tell you what, me and Z have had some good battles in the past. And for some reason, when I see the big guys, especially the guys that you respect on the ice, which Z is one of those guys, I think unanimously around the league, he gets a lot of respect. I like to go with those guys the hardest and more times than not, he’s came out on the winning side of those battles in the corners. But to have him on our side, it’s going to be real awesome. And I’m excited to learn from him, the way he carries himself, the way he handles the locker room. I hear very good things. So, I’m getting up there in years, but still learning. And that’s a guy that I am looking forward to pick some things off from.”
Q. Do you think he’ll bring some missing ingredient to this Caps team?
OSHIE: “I think he does. I think, I mean, you got [Brenden Dillon] and [Chara] on that left side and [Dmitry Orlov] even, Orly, that’s a physical left side and I don’t think right-wingers are going to have a great time playing the Caps this year.”
Q. What would it mean to you to have the opportunity to compete in the Olympics once again?
OSHIE: “To play in the Olympics again would be amazing. Honestly, the first one I was very in awe the whole time we were there and did a great job with the shootout, but didn’t medal. To get a medal, for me, that’s one of the only things that I haven’t done as a hockey player. So it would mean a lot to me and to get back there, not only just me, but if we can get the NHL players back there and let some of these kids coming up that haven’t had a chance to make an Olympic team, and to go over there and see the Olympic village and all that stuff. I think it’s very important for the game. And for these young guys coming up.”
Q. Take us back to 2014 in Sochi. Was that shootout performance one of the highlights of your career?
OSHIE: “It was one of the highlights of my career. I don’t know. I don’t really think a lot about stuff like that too much. I think once I’m done, I’ll focus on a little bit more. When I was out there, it felt like I was just in the backyard again shooting on my dad and my brother. I’ll look back one day probably and focus more on those moments, but obviously as a hockey player, notoriety wise, that kind of put me on the map a little bit. I try not to be just a shootout player, but that was definitely an important moment for me.”
Q. Finally, how difficult was it not to have the chance to participate in 2018 Olympics? Would playing in 2022 be even more special given the hiatus?
OSHIE: “I think it would be more. I don’t know if it gets more special, but we want to get back there. The players want to get back there. I can’t tell you how many people [I’ve met] that had come over here from China or from Asia, from all over the world, that say that they watched that game. And I’ve never had anyone say that about an NHL game to me. So I think it’s really good for the game and for me to get back there and to get on the Olympic team, especially [at] point in my career to go in there and hopefully, mentor some of the young guys, it would be an honor and I’d be excited to get back.”