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Trotz on growth as coach, playoff grind

Capitals coach also discusses acquisition of Eller, trying to make history in Washington

by Dave Stubbs @dave_stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

BUFFALO -- Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz, winner of this year's Jack Adams Award as the NHL's coach of the year, touched on a number of topics Saturday in a one-on-one conversation on the draft floor at First Niagara Center:

On Friday's trade acquisition of center Lars Eller from the Montreal Canadiens for Washington's second-round picks in 2017 and 2018:

"I talked to Lars [Friday] night and he asked me where I saw him with our hockey club. I see him in our third hole at center ice. Knowing what I know about him, coaching against him, is that he's very, very smart, a good penalty-killer, good on faceoffs. He's a big body and he can use his body to protect pucks in a puck-protection game.

"I like his skill set. I said to him that I see him playing on the penalty-kill, where he'll be very effective for us in a good role. Probably some late-game situations because of his faceoff skills and ability to play in that sort of defensive role.

"We have two pretty good power-play units, but I'm not averse to him being on the power play. I need some time to know the player a little bit better. We have some good offensive players. You talk about having two good offensive lines, well, I think you almost need to have three good offensive lines in this League now. He's going to have the opportunity to play with some pretty good offensive players.

"I expect some offensive production from him, as well. I told him I think he'll be a really good fit. We have a chance to be one of the teams to win a Stanley Cup again next year. He could be a missing piece for us.

On how Trotz, who has coached 1,360 regular-season games, has grown:

"I think I'm a way better coach now. Over time, you learn from experiences. September's World Cup of Hockey will be another opportunity for me to continue to grow as a coach and a person. I'll work with some fantastic coaches - Mike [Babcock] and Joel [Quenneville] and Claude [Julien] and [Billy] Peters. That experience will be just fantastic. We all play similar games, from the terminology to how we look at things, how and why we do things. It's a tremendous honor to do that."

On working to make history in Washington:

"The Canadiens have won 24 Stanley Cups, and we have yet to win one with Washington. It's special to do that, and that's why Montreal has such a great history. We're trying to create our own history in Washington. Our political climate seems to always look to the negative and talk about the past a lot. It's sometimes frustrating. I have nothing to do with what anyone did here before me.

"The last two years, we've been trying to create our own history. We got back in the playoffs, got to the second round and lost in Game 7 overtime. Then this year, we had one of the top records in NHL history. [Goalie] Braden Holtby did some special things [en route to winning the Vezina Trophy]. We really grew as a team. Our next step is to win a Stanley Cup. It's the hardest trophy to win."

On the grind of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

"It's really tough mentally. You win games you shouldn't. We dominated Pittsburgh in Game 3 (of the Eastern Conference Second Round) this season and we lost. How mentally draining is that? You've got to respond; your back is against the wall, there's the white noise, some guys are hurt or playing through stuff and the media are maybe picking on them a little bit because they're not performing the way they should but no one's making excuses for it because they're keeping it quiet.

"It's a physical marathon, but more of a mental marathon. Everybody is going to bring their best to the playoffs. The first round is so tough. Philadelphia was the eighth seed. We finished 27 points ahead of them, but all we did was win one extra game a month. Look at the standings and it's a lot closer than that.

"If you have a bad week, it can take you three weeks to get back to it. We never had that. We never lost consecutive games in regulation time; twice during the year we lost a second game in overtime or a shootout. You just can't have bad weeks in this League."

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