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May 27, 2018

Brian MacLellan

Barry Trotz

Las Vegas, Nevada: Practice Day

THE MODERATOR: We have Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan and head coach Barry Trotz.

Q. Hey, Mac, McPhee mentioned that maybe when he was -- when Schmidt was taken in the expansion draft, that you had tried to get him back after the fact. Can you take us through that process and kind of add some clarity there.
BRIAN MACLELLAN: Yeah, in a couple discussions, I don't think they fully disclosed who they were going to take, and they brought up a couple names that they were thinking about.

And as we progressed, at some point they said we're going to go with Schmidt. So I tried to get deals done to protect Schmidt, and it just didn't make sense for what they were asking. So consequently, we had to let him go.

Q. Barry, this is a question for you. I think a few years ago, if you were to ask the average fan or person in hockey the identity of the Capitals, they might say a skill team or a finesse team. That's maybe not the case now with the physicality of the team, blocking shots, et cetera. How have you helped change the identity of this group of players?
COACH TROTZ: Well, I think a little bit of the roster has changed, and I would say we're just a good team. We play the game a little bit -- let's say the right way more often.

I think the thing that we've tried to instill the last few years is be very consistent. Be consistent in our game. Obviously, your roster changes a little bit. Our roster changed substantially last year, and we have a number of young guys that were put in our lineup that have given us a little bit of a jolt of maybe some speed and also just the youthful enthusiasm.

And we've got a real good, strong core that have been in place with a really good culture. They've won a lot of games the last four years. So I think our guys take pride in that. I think that's just carried over.

Q. Brian, there was -- just sort of following up on what Barry just said, there was sort of a perception on the outside that the window was closing or had closed on this group coming into the season. I'm just wondering what, back in September, you thought you had with this team?
BRIAN MACLELLAN: Yeah, I think, you know, maybe the outside perceptions were a little different than what we thought internally. I mean, we thought we had a number of good young guys that could fill in for holes that we had with guys that departed. And like Barry said, we added some speed. We added Vrana, we added Stephenson. We bumped Tom Wilson up.

So I think the end result, while it wasn't evident in the beginning, became that. We became a quicker team. We played a more north style game than we have in the past.

So I think, as our young guys got more comfortable in the league, our team got better.

Q. Coach, you guys are 8-2 on the road in the postseason. Was there a point in the first or second round where it stopped being kind of a coincidence that you guys were winning games on the road and it became a thing where you felt confident that, even though you were away from home, you were going to be able to take it?
COACH TROTZ: Actually, it was Game 3. Game 3 against Columbus in the first round. We went into overtime, and Zeller scored a big goal, and our guys said it doesn't matter where we play. I think we've had that mentality all year. Where we play doesn't really matter if we play our game.

Obviously, getting that win was a pivotal win for us in Columbus, and I think from there we sort of -- you know, we've taken that attitude of home ice is not that big of a deal.

The rinks are the same. The environment's a little bit different, but pretty well we play on the same surfaces, and we're playing the same teams that we always play, home or away. So we've been really good that way.

Q. Barry, was there a lot of debate over when you would do the hot lap?
COACH TROTZ: Well, I was like the last guy out there today. So all of a sudden, it got quiet, and as I was coming up sort of the tunnel, I didn't see anybody skating. And then all these big smiles of about 30 people with these smirks on their face, I knew I was committed to it. Just like I've said to the players, this time of year, if your number gets called, you've got to be ready for it.

So I didn't even have to -- I knew right away. They just all smiled, and I said, okay, I've got it. I was just trying to get a couple pucks out of the way so I didn't go crashing into the board. I made it around, and what was my time? Was it better? It felt better, I can tell you that.

Q. Brian, how would you describe your dealings with George during the expansion draft? And how would you characterize your relationship with him now in the framework of the fact that you guys have known each other for four-plus decades?
BRIAN MACLELLAN: Yeah, simple answer, huh? No, I think -- I mean, the communication is -- you know, I'm trying to feel out who he's thinking of taking, and he's not giving me anything. So, I mean, it's difficult. And I get -- I don't -- it was businesslike, you know, and it was what are you thinking? What are you thinking? It was short, concise, and that's about it.

It's not like the relationship is in total, where you're talking as friends or somebody you've grown up with. It wasn't that at all. It was pure business.

Q. Coach, have you sensed from Alex any kind of change in his demeanor, in his focus on the task at hand than maybe you've seen previously from him? Is he more engaged, do you feel?
COACH TROTZ: I think Alex is the guy that's been engaged every playoffs. You look at his numbers, they're undeniable. They're really good. But I sense a freedom. I sense a guy that's very focused, a guy that's on a little bit of a mission, and it's good.

But I think, more than anything, it's the freeness of the playoffs. He's very, very comfortable on this stage. He's very comfortable on what he's doing. He's very comfortable within our group. And he's very comfortable of pushing forward and not worrying about anything else. Just he's been a really good leader for us through the playoffs, and he's done it by example.

And it's not just the goal scoring. I think Alex understands that the complete game, the commitment level, those little details, those hard things they have to do to be -- that are necessary for you to win, he's all in on that.

And I think that, to me, is really where he's made a big impact.

Q. If I can ask this question of both Brian and Barry, I think it's fair to say Brooks Orpik sometimes takes some heat on social media. But, Barry, if you can answer a question about what you've seen from Brooks Orpik during this playoff run. And, Brian, you signed him to this deal. I wonder if these are the moments where this is why you did it, this is what you hoped to see in terms of his role and what he's doing in this locker room.
COACH TROTZ: You can go first.

BRIAN MACLELLAN: Yeah, I think he's provided us everything we wanted when we did sign him. I mean, he's 37 years old. You know, he comes early and leaves late. He's in top shape, says the right things in the room, says the right things on the bench, plays the right way. In my mind, he's had a real good finish to the season and in the playoffs.

It seems to me like he's really excited to be at this level, like everybody else is too. But I think when you're that age and you get one more shot at it, it gives you a little boost, a little shot of adrenaline, and I think he's taken full advantage of it. He's been all that we've wanted when we got him.

I think when they do the there's only one Stanley Cup winner on each team, Fleury and him, I think that speaks loudly for what he is.

COACH TROTZ: Brooks is absolutely the perfect fit for us this year. There's no question. He's been a good fit from the moment Brian has signed him. But culturally, he's what you are. You talk about an all-in pro, a guy that lives his life correctly, who does everything correctly.

But with this year with what happened last year, obviously, losing to Pitt in the seventh game and just the -- I'll say a little bit of the hurt we still felt, he's a guy that doesn't look for excuses. I think he got everybody right back on track in our locker room. He was one of the key guys.

We're a team full of rookies, and he's the right guy to really lead that group as one of the guys because he's like a father figure in our room. The players look up to him. I don't think there's a guy in our room, if Brooks sort of pulls you aside and says, you know what, maybe we shouldn't do that or stop feeling sorry for yourself, guys really, really take that to heart. They have so much respect for him, and he's been the absolute perfect guy for us, especially with the young group that we have.

Q. Barry, just wanted to circle back to Alex for a second, and you did touch on it a few minutes ago, but a guy like Steve Yzerman, he started winning Cups when he added that texture to his game, and even Sidney Crosby the last few years has kind of reinvented himself a little bit, and I'm wondering if you've seen a bit of that from Alex, becoming less of a one-dimensional guy and seeing the success that comes with maybe taking on a bit more texture to his game?
COACH TROTZ: Yeah, absolutely. I had the opportunity to go over to Russia and talk to Alex right after his wedding. We talked about that. Keep growing. I mean, you don't want to be a one-trick pony in this league. The league keeps changing on you, and the one thing that Alex does better than anybody, maybe in the history of the game, is score goals, shoot the puck the way he has. He has fantastic release. He plays a physical game for a pure skill guy. There's so many things that he's done for the game.

But we talked about, you know, finding other ways to be effective, and as I said, all those little necessary details -- training a little different now as you're getting older. You're not 25 anymore. So you have to do all those little things, and he did, and he came in and set the tone of training camp. What did he have, back-to-back hat tricks to start the year? He was making a statement, and I think that carried forward for our team and Alex.

Alex is a very prideful guy, and I think he made a huge statement. And by the way, I don't know if you could beat me on that hot lap.

Q. I think I can.
COACH TROTZ: We'll have to go. We'll have to do it one time, absolutely.

Q. Barry, if I can follow up on Alex as well, obviously, Alex Ovechkin shoots from the same spot on the ice all the time. Everybody knows it's coming. Everybody knows what a quick release he has. Yet somehow he can always blast it by the goalie. How do you explain that? I mean, a lot of guys have great shots and quick releases. Why is he able to do that?
COACH TROTZ: I wish I could explain it to you. He sees the game, and he shoots the puck in a little bit of a slow motion. He has that ability to see past the block, see past the goalie. Some of the better goal scorers in this league don't see goalies, they just see empty spots, and guys that aren't goal scorers, they see the goalie all the time.

I think Alex has that ability to look beyond what's there, and obviously his release.

Goaltenders will tell you, trying to read the puck coming off his stick is very, very difficult. So all that combined, he's a great goal scorer.

Q. Coach, the past few years you've come to Las Vegas as a visitor for the NHL Awards show, talk to media on the red carpet. Now you're here on the eve of the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. What do you make of the transformation of this as a hockey city?
COACH TROTZ: Well, it's fantastic. I mean, you look at what's happened. As I said, I've been part of expansion. The rules changed a little bit for the better. And this city, this organization, they have done everything right. I mean, it's fantastic. It's a vibrant team. It's a good team. It's a vibrant city. It keeps growing.

But what I love about Vegas, there's no city on the planet Earth like Vegas, and they did it Vegas' way. Just as we did when I was in Nashville, we did it the Nashville way. We didn't try to be New York or anything like that.

I really, really commend the league and the ownership and all that to do it the Vegas way. It's entertainment. It's fun.

Q. Barry, L.A. couldn't beat Vegas. San Jose did it twice. Winnipeg once, they lost three games in three rounds. How do the Washington Capitals beat them four times in one round?
COACH TROTZ: Play Washington's game. That's what we've done. We've played a complete game, just as they do on the other side. They play a complete game. So we're going to have to -- some of the secrets we're going to keep within our room, but we've got to play a complete game. If you don't, then you get beat by Vegas. They've got a very good hockey team, so do we.

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