The Washington Capitals are still hurting after their loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Just ask Matt Niskanen.
“That hurt, it lingers, and I think you can use that as motivation,” Niskanen said. “That kind of stuff creeps into your mind, and it pushes you.”
The Capitals fell to the Penguins 4-2 in the second round of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Almost the entire roster is back from the Presidents’ Trophy-winning team, a team that is using their heartbreaking loss to the Pens as motivation for the 2016-2017 NHL season, a season that has a lot of potential for the talented Caps team.
“You need to see where things went awry and try to rectify it,” said winger Justin Williams. “We set a standard with having successful teams, a team every year fans can look at and say, ‘You know, we legitimately have a chance to win it again.’ As players, we embrace that, and we respect it, and we know that these opportunities that we have in front of us aren’t forever.”
Williams, winger T.J. Oshie and defenseman Karl Alzner could be unrestricted free agents July 1st and the Capitals will have a lot of challenges as they try to navigate towards the future while dealing with a difficult salary cap situation.
“I think there’s pressure every year,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “Last year, we were a contender, there’s pressure. Same pressure this year. We have a goal of winning a championship. We know we’re close, and we need to pursue it, and we’ll do everything we can to get there.”
Alzner admitted that he started getting over the tough loss to the Penguins until pictures of the team’s Stanley Cup win started flooding his social media timelines.
“It’s worse, in my opinion, because then you really think, ‘OK, if I could have got past that team, then the Cup was ours,'” said Alzner. “I think that all of us in the room thought that we were going to win that last year.”
So how does a Washington Capitals team, stacked with talent and ranked one of the best teams in the NHL, improve on last season?
“We can finish the season with a win. That’s it” said Williams