Despite Sell-Off & Potential For Lottery Pick, Capitals Refuse To Give Up On Season
The Washington Capitals are out of playoff position and sold at the deadline, and there’s also the potential for a higher pick if they don’t make the postseason. However, the players refuse to throw in the towel.
WASHINGTON — Following a huge comeback victory for the Washington Capitals over the Buffalo Sabres, captain Alex Ovechkin was awarded the rope as "player of the game" and stood before his teammates to make a speech.
His words spoke volumes as he cited the team's effort and push following a 3-1 deficit after a low-shooting first period, and it also said a lot about where the team currently stands and where it could be after the final 13 games to close out the regular season.
"It's a good thing about this team, we never stop believe in each other… I believe in this group, everybody believe in it," he told the group following his multi-point performance in his return from a lower-body injury. "Fuck, you never know what's gonna happen. Just keep fucking grinding and get the next one."
Washington is in the fight for its life right now and is outside of palyoff territoryt amid inconsistencies, injuries and other struggles in an adversity-filled season. With the team not in its usual postseason position, general manager Brian MacLellan chose to sell at the deadline, shipping out several pending free agents in exchange for draft capital and the likes of Craig Smith and Rasmus Sandin. His moves sent a message that this isn't exactly the team's year, and that the playoffs may not be within reach and that it's time to start planning for the future. And, of course, not making the playoffs would come with the prospect of a higher draft pick.
READ MORE ON WHN: Alex Ovechkin Discusses Injury, Returning To Lineup & 'Can't-Miss' Mentality Toward Games
Despite those decisions from the front office, the Capitals players do not feel that they are down and out, nor have they turned the page on this season. In fact, Tom Wilson and the team insist that there's no quitting and that the team still has a belief that it can make the playoffs and compete.
"The expectation has been to win every night, and I think if you ask the guys in this room, it hasn't changed. The culture here is winning and winning games and making the playoffs," Wilson said. "So until the closing bell kind of rings, we're just going to keep pushing and do our best in here. I don't think you're going to see any quit, so we'll just keep it going."
Washington has won four of its last seven games and has managed a point in all but two of those showdowns. The team is just five points out of Wild Card position and has a game in hand over the New York Islanders. And, with that being the case against Buffalo, who is also fighting for a playoff spot and was tied with D.C. in the standings, the Capitals couldn't afford to lose.
"You can see the urgency in our game and just the compete level and just the will to win," Charlie Lindgren, who stopped 20 of 21 shots and both shots against in the shootouts after surrendering three goals on six shots in the first, said. "That was what we all saw… I saw that group in front of me fighting for our lives, essentially."
With there only being so many games left on the circuit, including a few key conference showdowns against the likes of fellow Wild Card contenders and fringe teams in the Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers, there's a lot more on the line going forward. Here's a look at the standings right now:
Ultimately, no matter where things stand, there's no giving up on 2022-23.
"Maybe a little bit of a realization of where we're at [hit]," T.J. Oshie said. "Every game has to kind of be a playoff mentality for us, and there's no time like playoffs when you're down goals and able to fuel comebacks."