TAMPA, Fla. — The Washington Capitals waited until Alex Ovechkin did a solitary lap as fast as he could before starting their morning skate ahead of Sunday night’s Game 2, which is some sort of superstition the team began during these playoffs.
In the series against Pittsburgh, it was Jay Beagle who did the lonely speedy lap, but after a loss, Ovechkin took over the duties.
“I have to. These legs have to move, you know?” the Capitals captain explained later, slapping his enormous thighs. “I have to wake up. That’s why I’m over there and I do a lap.”
Hey, whatever works.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, on the other hand, had an optional morning skate Sunday.
With the Capitals up 1-0 in this Eastern Conference Final, here are a few notes ahead of Game 2, with puck drop set for 8:00 p.m. ET at Amalie Arena.
Capitals star centre Nicklas Backstrom has been out of the lineup since he hurt his hand while blocking a shot in Game 5 against Pittsburgh.
The good news: Backstrom wore a red jersey and participated in most of Sunday’s pre-game skate. He took a few shots, but he didn’t participate in line rushes or power-play work.
Coach Barry Trotz said the Swede is a game-time decision, without even being asked. “I knew that was going to be the next question,” Trotz said. A real veteran move.
“He’s our key player,” Ovechkin said. “We’ll see what’s going to happen, if he’s going to play tonight or not. Obviously, everybody knows what he means to this organization, to this club, and if he’s going to be in it will be nice.”
Preparation and execution and preparation and execution
Those were the words Lightning defender Anton Stralman repeated over and over and over on Sunday morning, because the veteran figured that’s what was missing in Game 1, which saw Washington score four straight goals and earn a 4-2 win.
“I mean, you can make a lot of reasons, but at the end of the day we didn’t get up on a level that we needed to be to compete in a playoff game and that’s all our fault,” he said. “Comes with preparation and execution of game plan and everything, it comes with that.”
The Lightning bounced back from a Game 1 loss against Boston in Round 2, then rattled off four straight wins to get here.
“We have an experienced group and I don’t think it’s something that we really think much about, up or down, it’s just the next game,” Stralman said. “That was a bad game the other night, but it doesn’t change the way that we go forward. I think we have a confident group, we know what our assets are and what our weaknesses are and I think it’s up to us. We know what we want to do and what our game plan is.”
Everybody loves Jay
Anybody in the Capitals dressing room will tell you fourth-liner Jay Beagle is the hardest-working guy on the team. He’s rarely not smiling, and apparently he still uses a flip-phone.
Said Tom Wilson, who’s on the wing on the No. 1 unit with Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov: “Beags is such a down to earth character guy and an amazing teammate and someone that’s always pushing the group in the right direction.
“It’s nice to have a guy like that show up every day. You know he’s going to be the hardest working guy on the ice probably, and that’s all he knows, I think. That’s just the way that he was brought up, that’s where he came from and it’s a lot of fun to have him around.”
Happy Mother’s Day
John Carlson and his wife Gina had their second child earlier this month, so you had to figure the defenceman had Mother’s Day plans, right?
“Yeah,” he said. “Hockey game tonight.”
The Capitals have a chance to head home with a commanding 2-0 lead in this series, and Trotz says there’s no problem with being a little greedy at this time of year.
“Your focus has to be on getting to four as quick as you can,” he said. “We have an opportunity tonight to try to do that. We know that Tampa Bay is going to bring their A-game tonight. They’re a high-quality team, they’ve got good leadership in the room, they’re well-coached and they’re gonna have their A-game. We know that, and we’ve got to have our A-game, too.
“I want us to be greedy.”