‘Ready to hit the ground running’: Caps goalie more comfortable in 2nd year in Washington

“Do your job.”

This simple phrase has become the mantra of the Washington Commanders’ season, with head coach Ron Rivera taking a page out of Ted Lasso’s book and hanging a sign reading “DO YOUR JOB.” inside the team’s locker room.

But could it be the motto for the Washington Capitals, too?

As the Caps prepare to start their season against the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night, goalie Darcy Kuemper said the message carries over to the ice.

“I think there’s a lot of wisdom behind that,” he said during an interview on WTOP Thursday. “It takes a full team to go out and win, but for that to be possible, each player has to do their part and I think that’s what they’re trying to get at with that.”

Going into his second season in Washington, Kuemper said he feels like he’s able to better focus on doing his job. The 32-year-old netminder signed a five-year deal with Washington as a free agent ahead of last year.

Caps goalie Darcy Kuemper joins WTOP

Kuemper said he’s feeling “a lot more comfortable” the second time around.

“The city, the facilities, the teammates, rather than feeling it out at the start of the year, you’re ready to hit the ground running,” he said.

Kuemper’s 2021-22 season with the Colorado Avalanche ended in a Stanley Cup title, but it was a much different story last season in Washington. The Capitals missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2013-14 season — and for just the fourth time in the Alex Ovechkin era.

So what will it take for Kuemper to become a champion in D.C.?

“It takes a full team and that’s what we’ve been focusing on all camp. We know it will take all of us to get to that again and that’s been our goal,” he said. “We know we’re all gonna have to be involved and be at the best we can be for our teammates and that’s what we’re gonna do.”

It’s no secret the Capitals’ Stanley Cup window is closing. According to CapFriendly, the team has the second-oldest roster in the NHL, younger than only than their division rival Pittsburgh Penguins. Many of the team’s core pieces, including Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Kuemper himself are 33-years and older.

“There’s definitely urgency,” Kuemper said. “As guys get older, you start looking at less and less chances to keep playing and keep winning, so you know every year’s an urgent year, and you’ve felt that intensity all training camp.”

Each of those aging players is also signed through at least 2025 to expensive contracts, making it tricky for the team to add young talent around them. One creative way the team’s brought in some youth: hiring the league’s youngest head coach in Spencer Carbery.

At just 41, Washington’s bench boss is not even four years older than Ovechkin, who will continue to chase Gretzky’s record of 894 career goals. He needs just 73 more to pass that mark.

Considering the talent on the roster, the promise of a new coach and the chase of history, there are plenty of things for fans to look forward to when the puck drops Friday night.

“We’re all really excited,” Kuemper said. “Got one more practice today, and then the real thing starts, so it’s an exciting time of year and can’t wait to get back out there.”

Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

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