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June 5, 2018

Barry Trotz

Las Vegas, Nevada: Practice Day

DAVID KEON: Good morning, everyone. I'm David Keon, NHL Communications, and I'd like to welcome you to our Stanley Cup Final conference call today with Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz. Thanks to Barry for taking the time to join us.

Q. Let's talk about -- I know you've been around this area for a couple of years, but you used to be in Baltimore with the Skipjacks. What did it mean for you, being one step away from winning a title for this area? I know you were with the Skipjacks back in the early '90s.
BARRY TROTZ: Well, obviously, this area has had -- you know, I think they're pretty passionate about sports and haven't had a championship here for a long time. You see what -- the enthusiasm in the city. You see the thousands of people outside the arena watching the game. I just think it's -- it would mean a lot. It would mean a lot to the community. It would mean a lot to me personally, and I know it would mean a lot to the players. A lot of the players have made this area home. A lot of the players have been here for a while, and the fans have been loyal through thick and thin.

So, obviously, this whole area, the D.C. area, Baltimore, the whole metro area, I think it will revitalize the city if we can win the fourth game and revitalize just the sports community, which is fantastic. Anyways, I think it would put a lot of pride into it.

Q. With the two days off, what do you guys got to do to keep the players from having rust, having two days off today and tomorrow. And I know it's a travel day, but what do you guys have to do to not have any rust on Thursday?
BARRY TROTZ: We're going to practice tomorrow and have a light skate in the morning. This is game 106 coming up, so I don't think there's any rust. I think it's more about rest and recovery than it is rust.

Q. Hi, Barry. We talked a lot about Evgeny's performance postseason. Last night he tied a Stanley Cup record. He's five points clear of Ovi right now in terms of leading. Did you see this coming? Do you think this kind of performance can propel him to superstar status going forward to next year?
BARRY TROTZ: I think he's been on the cusp of superstar status all year. He's been up in the top 15 in scoring pretty well all year. So if you're in the top 15 players in the league, you're pretty close to superstar status.

I think, obviously, the glare of Ovi probably has dimmed Kuzy's light, if you will. But the playoffs, you don't know how guys are going to perform in the playoffs, good playoffs or bad playoffs. Kuzy's elevated his game. It's not surprising when you see his ability, his IQ, his skill level. And now he's brought in that pride of playing in really tough games for, say, the most meaningful games that you can play in. He's been outstanding.

So I think the playoffs always -- you know, you can make a name for yourself in the playoffs, and he's definitely doing that.

Q. We've talked a lot about Ovechkin and kind of how emotive he's been on the bench during these playoffs, but what kind of effect do you think it has on his teammates and kind of the team in general when he's being kind of so emotional in games?
BARRY TROTZ: I would say he's emotional, but I would use the word engaged. He is totally engaged into every shift on the bench. You know, he is doing all the right things as a player, as a captain. And I think our whole leadership group is, everybody from Brooks and Nisky and Backy and T.J., everybody on the bench is really dialed in.

And, obviously, when your top guy is dialed in and doing the right things, then there's no fracture in your game. They're all connected. And that's really, really important. It's good to see because I think everybody has got both hands on the rope and they're pulling hard right now.

Q. Ovechkin's always been like pretty animated, but has that come to like a new level in this postseason? Maybe coming out of some sort of freedom he's now feeling?
BARRY TROTZ: Yeah, I think so. I think you're getting to see every emotion because there's more cameras, there's more scrutiny on every play, every shift, every movement. He's always been very emotional, but obviously, at this stage it's another level. Just as the play is another level, his emotional level is higher.

It's actually -- it's a great study in human emotions. He's gone through them all in the playoffs.

Q. Good morning, Coach. Your team, like the Vegas Golden Knights, has been in some way, shape, or form, written off at different points in the season and at different points in the playoffs. Do you feel like this Cup Final is almost a series of, quote, unquote, underdogs battling for the ultimate prize at this point?
BARRY TROTZ: In some ways, yeah, I think it is. As you mentioned, I don't think you would expect a first-year team to be The Finals, and they've got a fantastic story. I don't think too many people check the box, Washington Capitals Eastern Conference Champions starting the year.

There is some truth to that. I think both teams have taken on a little bit of an underdog role coming into it. No one respects -- you know, I don't think a lot of people respected us. I don't think a lot of people respected the Vegas game. You know, the only thing you can do is prove people wrong, and I think both teams, to this point, have done that. Both teams have exceeded expectations on both sides.

Q. Hey, Coach, about John Carlson's power-play goal, was the original switch between Carlson and Ovechkin something the coaches wanted to try or initiated by the players themselves?
BARRY TROTZ: No, it was something the coaches wanted. We've done that in the past. Sometimes you want some movement. It forces the other team to make some coverage changes, so we did.

Q. Good morning, Barry. Human nature last night. The team was winning 3-0. You said, I don't want them to lift the foot, but it's the way of things. After the game, you said that you're not looking forward to the Stanley Cup even at 3-1, but that's also human nature. What kind of message do you want to relay to your players to put aside that human nature and still try to focus on the fact that you have to go game by game and not let -- not lose focus with the prize instead of gaining the focus on the next game?
BARRY TROTZ: Well, I think we're going to talk about the process. The process is that we've got to win one game, plain and simple, and it starts with -- you know, just focus on the one game. The one game is in Vegas, Game 5, and you put your complete effort, your complete focus into that, and the result will be there. If it's not, you've got to move on.

But you have to just focus on the one game, and it's the next one. It's not three games or whatever because we have a cushion. There's no cushion. I think Vegas is going to -- you saw they had a really strong game last night. I thought, especially early, we were able to sustain their sort of surge, and then we took the game over in the back half of the first. Then they started coming in the second a little bit. We mismanaged stuff.

In Vegas, we're going to have to do the same thing. They're a quick start team. We're going to have to be ready for that, and if we're ready for that, and we're able to win the first period and worry about the next shift, the next shift, the next shift. So it's just a shift-to-shift mentality. This group is pretty grounded. I'm just going to talk to them about making sure we're not -- you know, obviously, we've got a lot of people trying to help us win the Cup now. You're getting a lot of calls. You're getting a lot of stuff like that. So just to make sure that we're focused on that, and our people here are doing a good job of keeping them -- all their distractions away from them.

Q. If I can follow up, is there a danger for you guys to want to win in front of your fans instead of winning the next game in Vegas?
BARRY TROTZ: Oh, zero chance of that. We want to win -- we just want to win the next game. There's no placing a -- do it at home. We just want to do it, and that's the message. It doesn't matter where you get it done. We just want to get it done.

Q. We talked a lot about Ovi and the team feeding off of him and the way he is. Do you feel like the team can also feed off of you? Mack has talked about you maybe being freer in the playoffs this year and you seem awfully relaxed around us and enjoying yourself. Do you think like the team can feed off the coach sometimes, and in situations like this where you want to keep focused on what's going on and the small picture and not the big picture?
BARRY TROTZ: Yeah, I think so. Even early last night, our bench got a little wound up. You know, everybody, a little bit, for about the first five minutes because they came out real strong against us. Yeah, I think there's a little bit of that, and that's my job to try to let them take cues off me.

I've been trying to be relaxed and understanding that there's going to be stressful moments during games. There's going to be surges by the other team. We're going to have surges.

Just to understand that it's part of the process, it's part of things that are going to happen, so don't be wound up about it. If it does happen, don't get yourself all out of sorts because something maybe doesn't go your way. So I think we've been able to fight through that. It's been a good process through the whole playoffs, and hopefully we can continue it in Vegas.

I think, actually in Vegas, getting back to Vegas and when everybody's together, we've been a really good road team. I think it's going to be give the players a rest and get them focused on winning that one game and see if we can get it done.

Q. Good morning, Barry. In your first season with Washington, in the playoffs, you went -- you built a 3-1 series lead against the New York Rangers, then went on to lose that series in seven games. Is there anything that you learned from that series that can help you now with your approach to this series and as a coach and how to prepare the team?
BARRY TROTZ: Well, we were prepared. I think we went through a team that -- we went through a very, very tough first series. I don't think we were mentally in the place we are now. We're a totally different team. Yeah, you look at all those things, what could you have done better. I think we're in a totally different place. It's not even a factor for me.

Q. Hello, Barry. I guess following up the question about the underdog you were asked a little bit earlier, I wanted to specifically ask about these playoffs. When you came into the second round against Pittsburgh, you had the home ice advantage, although not many people considered you favorites at that point. Same thing with Vegas. You had to start the series on the road. You were, I guess, nominally an underdog. Do you still feel that way even though you're up 3-1? Does that still apply at all?
BARRY TROTZ: Really, I don't know if that applies even in the earlier rounds. You look at the difference between us and Columbus' couple points, which over 82 games that's having your goalie have a bad weekend or you go dry on the power play. So I look at most of the series as even. I think, obviously, with our history with the Penguins, we were probably considered the underdogs even though we were ahead of them in points just because of the history. And even in points, it was a few points, so it wasn't like it was a massive difference.

So this whole series, I would say probably the Pittsburgh, the Tampa for sure we were the underdogs. In the Columbus series, I thought that was a wash. And then coming into this series, everybody seemed to be going Vegas' way. I don't know if we were underdogs, but I felt we were at least on even ground with them.

So, yeah, the playoffs are a different animal, so there's not as big a favorite, if you will, as probably regular season games when you look at standings. Because it's how you're playing at the end of the year that really matters. That's what I always seem to find out. How your team's playing at the end of the season, it usually carries over into the playoffs. If you're a little bit erratic, you might be able to pull it together for a series, but it doesn't seem to sustain for the long haul.

DAVID KEON: Thanks very much, Barry, for your time.

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