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Capitals Have ‘Something To Prove’ Headed Into Opener



Washington Capitals coach Spencer Carbery speaks to players during a break in play during the third period of the team's NHL preseason hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Spencer Carbery’s to-do list is long entering his first season as the Washington Capitals’ bench boss. But before his push to return the team to the postseason begins, he did some redecorating.

The phrase “Something to Prove” now adorns the wall in the team’s dressing rooms at Capital One Arena and MedStar Capitals Iceplex, a constant reminder to ignore the low expectations placed on the Capitals by the hockey world.

“I just felt like I kept hearing that word and that phrase in different ways from summer interviews from different guys,” Carbery said. “I just felt like it resonates, and it’s a good reminder every day because this is going to turn into a grind.”

The Capitals enter the season as a bit of an afterthought, especially in a deep Metro Division. Only one of 16 writers predicted the team to make the playoffs this season, while ESPN rated them the sixth-best team in the division — 23rd overall.

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Few moves were made after the team missed the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons, leading many to wonder whether this season will be any different. But many of those making up the roster have a fire lit under them — a major catalyst toward a new-looking team.

In what appears to be his first major role, Connor McMichael seems eager to make not just an impression, but an impact. Matthew Phillips, a castoff from Calgary, is looking to make the most of his first true NHL opportunity.

Much of the team’s core — John Carlson, Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson — is healthy after missing major chunks of last season, and their continued presence on the ice could have a major influence. 

Even behind the bench, Carbery is a rookie head coach. Mitch Love only landed with the Capitals after being passed over for Calgary’s head coach position. After resigning in Columbus, Kenny McCudden is gambling on himself.

The Capitals will take their first step toward proving something Friday, hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins to open the regular season.

Jared Serre covers the Washington Capitals for Washington Hockey Now. He is a graduate of West Virginia University.