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May 14, 2018

Matt Niskanen

Washington, D.C.: Practice Day

Q. How hard is it to win in the playoffs?
MATT NISKANEN: Very hard (laughing).

Q. I mean, what level do you have to take it to in order to get it done?
MATT NISKANEN: Well, I think we're still finding that out as we go here. But the commitment level to do not so glamorous stuff is so important. Little wall battles, boxing people out in front of the net, blocking the shot. That stuff isn't pretty. The fancy stats, people don't like that stuff, but that stuff wins the games. It allows your skill to come out.

So we have full commitment right now. Things have gone well so far in this series for us because of those things, and we're off to a good start.

Q. What's impressed you about the way this team has been able to do all that stuff, all the not so glamorous stuff to get it done?
MATT NISKANEN: It's been good. Guys have been committed to it. It's been really important. We're getting contributions from everybody.

Q. Some of the things you just mentioned, blocking shots, kind of collapsing back, seem to be fuelling your guys' attack a little bit. Even Carly breaks up a play on a man rush, and all of a sudden it's going the other way. It's a pretty big goal. Is that by design?
MATT NISKANEN: A little bit. First and foremost I think you have to defend well to get the puck out of your net. So we're playing a style that we feel we have to to defend well against the rush and protect the slot area in the net front. If you're good in your own zone, if you defend well, create turnovers, you're going to get some breaks the other way. We've had a number of 2-on-1s here in the first couple games because of defense, I think. We'll hopefully continue that.

Q. What is the perspective in the Columbus series when you lost the first two games? Did that help you understand the position when you took the first two games?
MATT NISKANEN: Anything can happen. It can swing fast. We thought we played pretty well, and we were down 2-0 in that series. Third game goes to overtime, but that could look a lot different. So this isn't over.

We're off to a heck of a start, but we've got to take care of business at home here. It's all about Game 3. If they win one or two here, boy, the momentum switches big time, so we've got to take care of business.

Q. The end of the first period in Game 1 and second period in Game 2, goal is scored, you guys score and then in the end of the second period you guys get a goal. Is there an art to managing momentum swings in the game? Whether you create the momentum or facing it or going against?
MATT NISKANEN: I don't know if that's a strategy, really, as far as like scoring in the last minute of the period or not. But they sure are important. They gave us a big boost, boy. End of the first period in Game 1, they get one, and we score on the power play right away, what a swing. So just I think as players you really make sure that you don't have a mental lapse in those moments. That's really the only way to approach it, just be on your toes.

Q. You came here with Brooks. Where have you seen his influence from the start when you came in and the things he does, and what people don't notice or see inside the locker room?
MATT NISKANEN: His professionalism and his commitment to doing the right thing all the time, the way he competes, that stuff's infectious. His word carries a lot of weight because of his professional routine and the way he competes on the ice. Everyone in that room has a ton of respect for Brooksy, and he certainly plays very well.

Q. Having the number of young guys and new guys you've had this year, obviously there were growing pains at points. But do you think it helped having some fresh blood in there too?
MATT NISKANEN: Yeah, potentially. I think we had an actual competition for playing time this year at certain positions. Guys embraced it, I think that brought the best out in a lot of guys. We had to fight for it during the regular season this year. I think that created a lot of good habits for us and got the competitive spirit up rather than coasting into the playoffs. I think that for sure benefited us so far for sure.

Q. Who are some of the younger guy that's came into the organization in the off-season, how much weight do you put into the idea of having so many new faces on the team that haven't been through previous playoffs is part of the reason why things are going the way they are this year?
MATT NISKANEN: Yeah, maybe. Some of the guys that are playing now, they're so excited to be here. They love to compete. They give us a boost, for sure. I think just fresh energy, a different look. I think the guys that have been here are leading the way, but we're getting a boost at times from guys that are new.

Q. Ovechkin seems like he's playing with a giant weight off his shoulders. Are you noticing anything different with him since this series started, even off the ice?
MATT NISKANEN: I think if we're being serious here, I think getting past the second round is a relief for him. I think beating Pittsburgh was a huge deal for him. We earned that. That's a good feeling for all of us.

We're excited to be here. We're excited about what we accomplished. But we're also excited about the opportunity ahead. I think that so far we're really taking advantage. We're excited to play and know what's at stake, and we're going after it.

Q. Are you speaking for Alex there or the whole team as well, because that may be a trickle down?
MATT NISKANEN: Both, both. Both. I think the guys that have been here a while, and him as well, he hasn't talked about it. I'm just guessing here, knowing him. He's a competitive guy, and he's taken some past failures pretty hard, and he's not going to let this opportunity go to waste. He's bringing it. So good for him. He's leading the way.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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