Caps still stunned after early playoff exit
Emotions were raw and opinions were strong when the Capitals conducted their annual breakup day on Wednesday at Kettler, two days after being eliminated by the New York Rangers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Here’s a collection of some of the strongest comments and biggest news to come out of the three-hour exercise:
Cuts like a knife: Center Nicklas Backstrom might have been the most visibly upset player to speak to reporters, saying, “From the fans’ standpoint I know it’s frustrating to see this team never win in the playoffs. We’re all frustrated. You always want to try to do your best out there but sometimes you fail. … As a player you try to stay positive, even if it’s hard. It sucks. It really does. I’m a guy who hates it the most. I don’t like losing and I don’t like standing in front of you guys here telling you how it feels -- because obviously, it sucks.”
Was that a guarantee? Defenseman Mike Green said he believes the Caps “should be proud” of what they accomplished this season and guaranteed a championship -- sort of. “I’m really looking forward to next season already, just because we know we have a great team. Everything’s in place and I think we’re going to be really good for a long time. We’re going to win a Cup. I believe in all the coaches and the staff we have. It’s more than just players. We’re a team now. Adam’s done a great of implementing that. We’re a confident team that we’re going to do this. … With the maturity level and the experience, we're going to win. I can guarantee that."
Polish a what?: Groin problems kept Brooks Laich out of all but nine games this season but he said he was on target to play in Round 2 if the Caps were able to get past the Rangers. He might have had the most interesting words to describe his feelings. “These days suck. There’s no way to polish a turd. These days suck.” Laich said he had hoped to return for Game 5 of the first round but said the Capitals were not prepared to risk his future by putting him in a game before he was ready.
Four more years?: Forwards Mike Ribeiro and Matt Hendricks said they hope to re-sign with the Capitals before becoming unrestricted free agents on July 5. “If I can stay in this city and retire here,” Ribeiro said. “It’s more about the kids. If I could stay here until they go to college, that’s my focus. Four or five years. I still believe I can get better.” Caps general manager George McPhee said he will attempt to re-sign Ribeiro and Hendricks but acknowledged that with roughly $6 million to sign four players [Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson are unsigned restricted free agents] it will be difficult.
Erat’s injury: Left wing Marty Erat confirmed he suffered a dislocated left elbow in his Game 4 collision with Alex Ovechkin and Derek Stepan. “I tried to catch [Stepan] and he hold me underneath his elbow and when Ovi came through my elbow couldn’t handle it.” Erat said he will not require surgery and hopes to be OK in a couple of weeks.
Neuvy OK with No. 2?: Goaltender Michael Neuvirth called his third season with the Caps a frustrating one after getting into just 13 of the team’s 48 regular season as a backup to Braden Holtby. “It was tough to watch Holtsy play but I was supporting him every game. He was winning and there was no need to change anything. You never know what’s going to happen. My goal is to be No. 1 and I will do whatever it takes to be No. 1. I’m happy to stay with this organization and try to get to No. 1 here.”