Paulsen: Capitals Have Less Talent, More Fight

"This team works a little bit harder than some of the clubs in the past"

After Hours With Amy Lawrence
May 08, 2018 - 10:04 am

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Well, they did it.

For the first time since 1998, the Washington Capitals have reached he conference finals, this after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-1, in overtime Monday. Evgeny Kuznetsov netted the series winner to set up a date with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the right to go to the Stanley Cup.

The Capitals have been known for playoff letdowns. This year, they’ve exceeded expectations.

How are they doing it?

“Well, they’re less skilled – and I think in some way that’s actually benefited them, weirdly enough,” Washington D.C.’s 106.7 The Fan host Grant Paulsen said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I’m not going to sit here and pretend like it’s better to have less talent – I don’t think that’s ever the case – but this team works a little bit harder than some of the clubs in the past. They handle adversity better, they didn’t get down when things didn’t go their way, and they turned it into a chip on their shoulder.”

Tom Wilson’s three-game suspension lit a fire under the Capitals.

“They felt like they were wronged by the NHL, and they’ve turned that into a motivational tool,” Paulsen said. “They did the same with the loss of Nicklas Backstrom. The next-man-up mentality worked out better for this time around and that was with less talent.”

The Capitals have regularly finished with the best record in the league, only to lose in the second round of the playoffs. Their roster, in recent years, has been one of the best – and deepest – in hockey.

“This year’s group was not even close to that,” Paulsen said. “They were supposed to have taken a step back after a bunch of seasons running the table in the Metro and getting to the second round. This was supposed to be a year where not only did they not win the division, which they did, maybe they didn’t make the playoffs – they obviously have – and certainly not a year where they would have been a favorite to knock off a team they haven’t been able to in a long time. But I think a) they dealt with adversity better, and b) most importantly, they had the hot goalie.”

Braden Holtby began the postseason on the bench but has helped the Capitals win eight of their last ten games, including three in overtime.

“Holtby is way more rested than he has been,” Paulsen said. “I think he’s only getting better right now. He’s shined these last couple of games, and he really did steal a couple of wins for the capital that they probably didn’t deserve in this series. they were the better team clearly, but h was the best player on the ice for them – and that hasn’t been the case in the second round at any point in this era with Ovechkin on ice."