WASHINGTON — The start of Washington Capitals’ training camp is a sure sign that summer is officially over.
There’s always new optimism this time of year, usually following a gut-wrenching Game 7 playoff loss. It may hurt at first, but the Caps hope better days are just around the corner.
Things could be different this time. Yeah, I know that’s been said a lot, but there could be some truth to that this season.
Just ask Justin Williams, a new right winger for the Caps: “I feel like this team, getting to know the players, care a lot and are willing to go the extra mile.”
The upcoming season will be coach Barry Trotz’s second behind the Caps bench. The team really came together as the 2014-15 season progressed, and almost advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Caps lost to the New York Rangers in overtime in the decisive game. All seven games in the series were decided by one goal.
The players bought into Trotz’s system of play, and now he looks to build on that.
“We’re trying to add certain things on to it,” Trotz said. “When we were changing things, guys were all in, but at the same time they were thinking instead of reacting. So, we’re trying to get them to react.”
As for superstar Alex Ovechkin, he realizes Father Time is now a factor. He just turned 30 and is entering his 11th season.
“I feel like a real veteran and we have to do big things right now,” Ovechkin said. “Because after 10 years, it’s always been the same thing.”
This year, though, things aren’t exactly the same for the Capitals. Longtime team members Mike Green, Eric Fehr, Troy Brouwer and Joel Ward are all gone. Combined, they had 69 goals and 86 assists last season. That’s a lot of offense to make up.
The Caps are counting on four youngsters to make the leap in improving their game: Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Tom Wilson and Dmitri Orlov.
They also have great expectations for newly-acquired T.J. Oshie, who could play alongside Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, providing a dynamic top line.
However, like most of the Capitals, Oshie never got past the first round of the playoffs in seven years with the St. Louis Blues.
He’s looking to change that in D.C.
“Hopefully, we can make that jump here, find the right pieces to put a nice run at the end of the season.”
You know, when the weather gets warm again.