Home Pay off Fun and ‘intense’ start to Capitals training camp will pay off big

Fun and ‘intense’ start to Capitals training camp will pay off big

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ARLINGTON, VA – “Quick! Up! Feet! Quickness!” were just some of the words repeated over and over again to open training camp for the Washington Capitals. Head coach Peter Laviolette didn’t let any of his players sit down to open training camp – nor did they want to let go.

When a drill wasn’t done well, Laviolette put his foot down, gathering his players to center the ice before skating them back and forth. From then on it was full blast, with every skater listening, present and putting in a full effort as if practice was a playoff game. There were no bad attitudes. Just hockey.

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It’s a welcome sign, and this start to camp is vital for the Capitals and something that’s badly needed going into what’s going to be a tough season after four straight first-round outings.

“It’s fast, it’s high intensity,” said Dylan Strome. “There is a mindset in the dressing room with these guys that we want to be a good team. We want to be a competitive team with a good run. It’s the first time I’ve seen something like this, so I’m excited. It’s been great fun so far.

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To open the 2022-23 campaign, Washington will be without the top 6 key scorers in Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson. The team will also continue to miss Carl Hagelin on the penalty kill and on the powerful fourth line. Factor in a tougher Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference as a whole, and getting off to a good start becomes even more fundamental as the Capitals look to their aging core, new additions and young guys to step up. .

“Those first 20 games are very important, so you have those kind of points. So if you’re going to have some ups and downs over the course of the season, you still have those points,” captain Alex Ovechkin explained. “So you can see last year’s teams were missing a point or two. You don’t want to play just six months. You want to play eight months and play for the Cup.”

It all starts with the high-pressure camp the team has had so far. It started with the infamous skating tests, but Friday saw experimentation with line combinations, forechecking drills, working in tight spaces and tough battles for the pucks. Ovechkin led the charge, throwing his weight and digging into the ice as he fought for every inch. The same can be said for Garnet Hathaway, Connor Brown, Marcus Johansson, Strome and several other NHL players.

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Off-ice work is also part of it. Connor McMichael, for his part, seems to have added a lot of size and muscle. As he looks to earn a full-time role as a second-line center, the size will be a major help as he looks to defend and win more battles, as well as improve his backcheck.

For Washington, camp is going to be a long process, with more experimentation and lineups to come and group changes expected as the roster begins to dwindle. This will give young prospects some time to show their worth in the NHL. However, starting with Group A, which consists mostly of roster players, is something Laviolette believes will make a big difference going forward.

“There will be changes every day, but it’s a chance for our guys to jump right in and get up to speed, and we thought that was really valuable,” he said.

Yet having fun is also important, especially when it comes to welcoming new players and establishing locker room culture.

“All the guys were really good and friendly and just made sure I felt welcome,” Brown said. “It’s been a good fit.”

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Ultimately, however, success begins with the preseason. And setting that standard from the get-go is something Darcy Kuemper and the group welcome as Washington looks to move past the first round and recapture the Stanley Cup success it won in 2018.

“You go into the practices and you start with that. And then you get to some pre-season games, which also helps. Gets as close to 100% as possible for the subsequent exorcism,” Kuemper said.

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