Skip to main content
column

Alex Ovechkin, Capitals raise expectations

Trade for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk has Washington thinking Stanley Cup

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- Alex Ovechkin understands what acquiring defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk means for the Washington Capitals. 

"Every year we talk about 'This is our year, this is our year,'" said Ovechkin, the Capitals left wing and captain. "Enough talk. It's time to do something."

It's time to win the Stanley Cup. That's the only reason the Capitals got Shattenkirk, the best rental player available this year, in a trade with the St. Louis Blues on Monday. The players understand that message. 

Washington sent its first-round draft pick this year and conditional draft picks as well as forward Zach Sanford and American Hockey League forward Brad Malone to St. Louis. Washington also acquired AHL goalie Pheonix Copley in the trade. 

Shattenkirk, who has 42 points (11 goals, 31 assists) in 61 games this season, will make his Capitals debut against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; SN1, SNO, SNP, TVA Sports, MSG, CSN-DC+, NHL.TV). He was not at Washington's morning skate, but he tweeted his arrival in New York at 11:59 a.m. ET. 

Video: Elliotte Friedman on the Kevin Shattenkirk trade

"Just touched down in NYC for tonight's game," Shattenkirk tweeted. "Let's do this @Capitals! Caps fans see you Thursday night!"

The Capitals players at the morning skate said they could feel a different vibe in the dressing room. 

"I think what's awesome about it is getting to see the level of sacrifice that the organization is willing to make to give us a chance," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "That's something that everybody who comes here or to any team is looking for. They want to know there is a management and ownership group that will do anything to win. That's what we're seeing right now." 

Veteran forward Justin Williams said he was shocked when he heard the Capitals were getting Shattenkirk because he didn't know it was an option. He said he started getting inundated with phone calls and text messages when the news started to break Monday night. 

"It adds an element of excitement to our room, that's for sure," Williams said. 

It also sends a message to the players from general manager Brian MacLellan, with the Capitals leading the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference. 

Video: Shattenkirk highlights as he comes to Washington

"I think this is an all-in thing from his standpoint," center Nicklas Backstrom said. "I feel like he's really trying to make this team better so we can have better success in the playoffs." 

And what would constitute a successful Stanley Cup Playoff run for Washington, which hasn't gotten out of the second round with Ovechkin, who is in his 12th season, despite making the postseason in eight of the past nine years? 

"Winning a championship," MacLellan said. 

He didn't say anything more. He didn't have to. 

"We believe we have an even better team than we had last year, but it's how we can respond to it," Williams said. "You have to embrace the pressure on yourself because after this we still have to go out and play. It's not just on paper what one of the best teams is. It's how we come together. It's how we play. And it's how we respond to it."

Before the Capitals can start on that journey, they have to get Shattenkirk acclimated to their culture and their systems. 

Washington coach Barry Trotz said he'll use Shattenkirk on the third defense pair with Nate Schmidt against the Rangers, meaning he's content for now to leave the top two pairs -- John Carlson and Alzner, and Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen -- alone. 

Video: DET@WSH: Carlson scores go-ahead goal

Trotz said Shattenkirk will play on the first power-play unit with Ovechkin, Backstrom, Williams and Marcus Johansson. Shattenkirk has seven goals and 20 points on the power play this season. T.J. Oshie, who is injured, would normally be on that unit. 

Carlson and Niskanen will likely be on the second power-play unit with Orlov coming off of the power play entirely. Trotz said Orlov already knows and understands. 

"Here's a player coming right into your lineup, he's going to try to figure out what you do systematically, he's going to have a new partner, a new organization," Trotz said. "His world has been turned upside down. We want to give him a little bit of a chance to be successful as well as an opportunity to meet everybody. I think that will keep coming but he will start on the first [power-play unit]." 

Ovechkin should be the beneficiary of Shattenkirk's passes from the right point on the first power-play unit the way Vladimir Tarasenko was in St. Louis. Ovechkin said he texted Tarasenko to find out about Shattenkirk. 

"He said, 'You're going to be happy to play with him. Great person and great player,'" Ovechkin said. 

Ovechkin said getting Shattenkirk reminds him of when the Capitals acquired Sergei Fedorov before the 2008 NHL Trade Deadline. 

Video: OTT@STL: Shattenkirk nets a rocket from the point

"Everybody understands we have to make a push," Ovechkin said. "Obviously we have a solid team but when you add a piece like that it gives you more belief. 

"You can see the organization thinks this is a team that can do it. It's a good sign."

View More