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Stanley Cup Final

Capitals have city behind them against Golden Knights in Cup Final

One win from first title, Trotz says 'it would mean a lot to the community'

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Barry Trotz has seen the excitement growing in the city and the surrounding area in Virginia and Maryland, and understands it. 

The Washington Capitals coach is excited, too.

The Capitals are one victory away from winning the Stanley Cup, leading the Vegas Golden Knights 3-1 in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final heading to Las Vegas for Game 5 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

 

[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Capitals series coverage]

 

Washington has never won the Stanley Cup in its 43-season history and fans haven't celebrated a major professional sports championship since the Redskins won the Super Bowl at the end of the 1991 NFL season.  

"You see the enthusiasm in the city," Trotz said Tuesday. "You see the thousands of people outside the arena watching the game. 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."

One more win would give Trotz, 55, his first championship after 19 seasons coaching in the NHL, including the past four with the Capitals and, perhaps, validation. He ranks fifth NHL history with 762 wins and 1,524 games, but had never coached beyond the second round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs before this season. 

To get to this point, the Capitals have followed the lead of captain Alex Ovechkin, who has been backchecking, blocking shots and seemingly throwing every ounce of his emotions into every play in addition to tying the team record with 14 goals this postseason (John Druce, 1990). But they've also followed Trotz and the way he's handled himself.

He has set the tone for the team with how relaxed he's been throughout the playoffs. On the morning of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, it was Trotz the players chose to do the "hot lap" -- a full-speed lap around the rink -- before their morning skate.

Video: Trotz pumps up his team ahead of Game 1

In a news conference before Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena, Trotz was sipping from a Gatorade bottle on the podium and providing his daily part running joke/part superstitious reminder to the media to hydrate. You'd have never guessed the Capitals lost 6-4 in Game 1 and were getting ready to play again in a hostile environment three hours later.

"That's my job, to try to let them take cues off me," Trotz said. "I've been trying to be relaxed and understanding that there's going to be stressful moments during games."

This is a significant change in Trotz from past playoffs when he seemed to get tight in big moments and his players sensed that as well. He talked before the Stanley Cup Final about what changed last summer after the Capitals lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Second Round for the second year in a row after winning the Presidents' Trophy each season.

"I started getting that clarity that everybody looks for the wrong in people rather than the right and it gave me a lot of clarity," he said. "And some things happened in my life that allowed me to see that and it's been good."

In a strange way, coaching without a contract beyond this season seems to have freed him to challenge players to be more committed than they were in the past and not worry about the consequences.

General manager Brian MacLellan, who has said he will address Trotz's future after the Stanley Cup Final, has noticed that Trotz, "seems a little lighter, a little looser" this postseason.

Trotz felt he needed to be a calming influence on the bench in the opening minutes of the Capitals' 6-2 win in Game 4 on Monday. The Golden Knights made a strong push early, forcing turnovers and creating good scoring chances, including two that went off posts.

Washington maintained its composure and weathered the storm without allowing a goal.

Video: VGK@WSH, Gm4: Trotz on sticking to game plan in win

"There's going to be surges by the other team. We're going to have surges," Trotz said. "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." 

The challenge for the Capitals now is to avoid being distracted by talk of Stanley Cup parades and celebrations to come if they can win one more game. Once again, it is Ovechkin and Trotz setting the tone.

Ovechkin provided an immediate reminder after the game Monday that being up 3-1 in the series means there's work still to be done. 

"It feels nice," Ovechkin said, "but it's not over yet,"

Trotz said he'll remind his players of this as well as they wait to play Game 5.

"We're going to talk about the process," Trotz said. "The process is that we've got to win one game, plain and simple and it starts with, '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."

***

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