Barry Trotz does not think the Capitals’ history of playoff struggles has created a mental hurdle for the team to overcome. “I think they’re all past that now,” Trotz said to reporters at the team’s breakdown day. “I think it’s so overworked by [the media] and everybody else that it’s actually becoming a joke to the guys.” Well, the Caps weren’t laughing after their Game 7 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. In some ways, Trotz is correct. Losing to Jaroslav Halak in 2010 is not why Washington lost to Pittsburgh this year. Giving up a 3-1 series lead to the New York Rangers in 2015 is not why the Caps were shutout in Game 7 by the Penguins. But there does seem to be a mental hurdle the team has
Everyone knows what Ryan Getzlaf said during Game 4 of the Western Conference Final, to earn himself a $10,000 fine from the National Hockey League. Read his lips. Or, if you need a cheeky euphemism as your guide, think of a vacuum chasing a rooster.
A lot of lingering glory stems from postseason success in the NHL, with near-Hall of Fame careers getting kicked up to enshrinement levels, while obvious superstars burnish their legacies with Conn Smythe trophies that seem to count for something extra beyond any and all hardware copped in the regular season. As a result, we often marvel all the further at the Gretzkys, Messiers, Lemieuxs, Roys, Sakics, while losing sight of amazing players who never quite reached those upper shelves of glory—at least not in terms of winning Conn Smythes—but who had inspiring runs of their own. Sittler could explode with the best of them: consider his ten-point game from the winter of 1976.