ARLINGTON, Va. -- In the aftermath of losing Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Second Round to the New York Rangers on Sunday, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin took a page from legendary Rangers captain Mark Messier's handbook.
Ovechkin boldly predicted the Capitals would win Game 7 on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m.; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). It is Washington's final chance to reach the Eastern Conference Final after losing Games 5 and 6.
Washington is 4-9 in Game 7 since 1987 and has played five of them in its past five Stanley Cup Playoff appearances. On Wednesday, Washington will play in its second Game 7 after defeating the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference First Round.
If the Capitals win this Game 7, they would play either the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Montreal Canadiens in their first conference final since 1998.
The Capitals took the day off Monday, but coach Barry Trotz said he is completely on board with Ovechkin's comments. In fact, he wouldn't expect to hear anything less from him.
"That's what leaders do," Trotz said. "I think leaders say, 'This is what we need to do, this is what we're going to do.' I'd rather have that than a leader going; 'Well, we're going there to lose.' I mean, come on. What do you expect a player to say?"
Twenty years ago, Messier famously assured the Rangers would win Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Final against the New Jersey Devils and force Game 7. The Rangers did, and they went on to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in 54 years.
"I love that a player has got the wherewithal to say, 'Hey, we're going to go there and we're going to go after them and we're going to leave it out there,'" Trotz said. "I have a lot of respect for players that say that."
Every player in the room is aware of the Capitals' record in Game 7 and the lingering fact that after all these years haven't attained their ultimate goal.
"I think everybody wants it enough," Trotz said. "Everybody brings it up, so why not just deal with it? The history hasn't been that great organizationally, so let's change it. We're the ones that can change it. What people think and perceive is going to be… you don't have to accept it. Don't accept it, just deal with it and go forward."
Trotz's solution is simple enough: The past doesn't matter. Just change history and do it. He used the Boston Red Sox as an example.
"I do believe the Boston Red Sox did win a World Series, right?" he said. "Odds were in their favor at some point.
"The odds are in our favor. This group can do something and you want to change history and you want to change perception, you just go out and do it. That's how you do it. I think that should motivate you, not bring you down."
Messier's guarantee is legend because he followed through on it. If Washington falls short Wednesday, Ovechkin's promise probably won't be spoken of in such revered tones.
It's the successes that get the attention and the failures that fade into history.
"We always make things bigger than they really are, always," Trotz said. "It's like calling your home run shot. I mean, everyone remembers it, but is that pure luck or is that skill? Or is that just timing? I don't know. They won the game, so no matter what happened… that's what leaders do and they got it done."
Ovechkin does not have a point in five games and last scored in Game 2. The last time Ovechkin was scoreless for five or more games was a six-game stretch between Oct. 18 and Nov. 1. If Washington wins, it might not be a career-defining moment for Ovechkin, but rather a shining moment in a career already filled with accolades.
For Trotz, it's less about that than accomplishing success as a group.
"All I can say is that this group and dealing with them all year, I really have a lot of respect for the group," Trotz said. "Everyone in there has a real special tie in the room and they will leave their best game out there. If their best game out there is good enough to win, and if it's not good enough to win we can walk out and say, 'Hey, we left it all there, there's nothing left.'"