The champs have arrived in Nucks Misconduct world.
As part of our ongoing Bandwagon Outreach Program we’ve reached out to Alex Ervin from Japer’s Rink for her take on why we should cheer for the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals this postseason.
1. First off… I thought we were bros? Then you guys have to go and win the Stanley Cup!? Both the Capitals and Canucks fanbases have been tortured for so long, it must feel great to finally cover a championship team.
I can’t speak for any of my fellow Japers’ Rink writers who have been covering the Caps for much longer than I have, but I think it feels pretty darn good. Caps fans dealt with so many years of heartbreak, which I know you understand, so it was kind of thrilling to watch the team bring the Cup to DC. It almost didn’t feel real. I can sympathize with the Canucks fanbase, though. I know how it feels, but I also know that after a long, painful wait, the big win feels even better.
2. How is this Caps team different from the one we followed last postseason? Sure, Trotz is history, but a lot of the roster remains intact. Can we expect more of the same this postseason or, again how are things different?
Roster-wise, almost all of last year’s Stanley Cup-winning guys are back for this run. Because of that, I think expecting more of the same is pretty reasonable. We talked about this in our roundtable yesterday, and I think most of us came to the consensus that while a repeat is of course difficult, the pieces and the players are all there to make it happen.
Overall, the way the Caps are coming into this postseason is actually pretty similar to the way they did so last year. Last year was free of the usual pressure that followed them into previous playoff runs, and this year is free of the “you have to win it all to mean something” pressure. Hopefully that means that the relaxed play that they had last year makes a reappearance, because that (clearly) seemed to work for them. All that being said, it feels like there are a few differences between the vibe of last year and this year. They no longer have anything to prove to anyone, and I think that’s going to make a difference. They probably have more confidence overall, too. Winning the Stanley Cup will do that to ya. Obviously, there’s still going to be some pressure as the defending champs, but I think they’re better equipped to handle that now.
3. What has former Canuck Nic Dowd brought to this team? Has he adequately filled the role that Jay Beagle had with the team for so long?
I’ve been a fan Nic Dowd since the beginning of the season, to be honest (I actually wrote about him back in November). Filling the hole that Jay Beagle left in Washington’s roster was no easy task, and while Dowd hasn’t stepped into the role in the exact same way, he has definitely helped anchor the Caps’ fourth line. His style of play is certainly reminiscent of Beagle, but I think he’s a bit scrappier compared to Beagle’s big frame and presence. Dowd also doesn’t spend as much time on the penalty kill as Beagle did, which was one of fans’ biggest concerns after he left for Vancouver, but the PK looks pretty good when Dowd is on the ice for it. I think the biggest difference between Beagle and Dowd is actually their off-ice presence. Beagle had been with the Capitals’ organization since 2007, and he became someone that his teammates looked up to and respected. While he didn’t wear a letter with the Caps, he was definitely one of the leaders on the team. Dowd stepped into the lineup to take on what used to be Beagle’s on-ice responsibilities, but there’s no replacing Beagle’s locker room presence.
Bottom line, I think Nic Dowd has been an excellent addition to the Capitals’ lineup this season. Clearly the Capitals think so too, after inking him to a three-year contract extension yesterday. Caps fans everywhere were nervous when Beagle signed with the Canucks because he was such an important part of the Caps’ roster, but Dowd has really effectively stepped into that spot while also making the role his own. All in all, I’m a fan and I’m glad he’s with the team for at least three more years.
Thanks again to Alex for her time and consideration. Frankly, while it might pain Canucks fans to see another hard luck franchise finally break through, I think we as a fanbase can all look to the Caps as proof that sometimes the Hockey Gods really do offer up a break.