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Williams' experience, Oshie's energy driving Capitals

by Dan Rosen /

NEW YORK -- There are times during a game Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz will hear right wing Justin Williams talking to his linemates on the bench, urging them on after good shifts or telling them they need to pick it up after bad shifts.

As Trotz is listening to Williams, he might also find himself watching right wing T.J. Oshie attack the game with boundless energy on a line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, burrowing into corners, digging pucks out, playing the perfect complementary role.

This combination has a way of tickling Trotz's senses to the point where it's almost laughable because of the influence Oshie and Williams have had on the Capitals this season.

Williams' leadership and Oshie's energy combined with the skill and production each of them have brought to Washington's top-six forward group has been the coup Trotz and general manager Brian MacLellan were hoping it would be.

The Capitals lead the NHL with 67 points in 42 games. Oshie and Williams, Washington's top-two right wings and two major offseason acquisitions, have 27 points apiece.

Washington's next game is at Verizon Center on Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks (7 p.m. ET; SN360, CSN-DC).

"On the ice, they're very intelligent players and they can make a difference," Trotz said, "but I think the intangibles are they have an impact in terms of how we do things."

Which is to say Williams and Oshie have played a major role in the Capitals' success this season. Not only do they make up one-third of Washington's top-six forward group, they have become part of the heartbeat of the team because of the intangibles Trotz talked about.

For Williams, it's experience, or in more appropriate terms, winning experience. He has won the Stanley Cup three times, once with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 and twice with the Los Angeles Kings (2012 and 2014). He also won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2014.

"For players, you give instant respect to something like that," Capitals forward Brooks Laich said.

Williams feels he's getting it. In fact, when he was asked how he feels being a new teammate to so many players, his first three words were, "I feel respected."

"And yes, obviously I've always felt respected, but I feel like my voice carries some weight here," said Williams, who signed a two-year, $6.5 million contract on July 1. "I think I add a little bit of comfort to the dressing room sometimes."

He does with his composure in all situations, Laich said.

"There's a reason he's on championship teams," Laich said. "He's a guy that always sees things in a great perspective. Even in our game against the [New York] Islanders [on Jan. 7], we had two unsportsmanlike penalties and in the second intermission he says, 'Guys, we want to be known as winners, not whiners, and especially come playoff time we want to have the refs on our side.' He notices things like that. He's very composed, very experienced, very veteran and very calm."

Williams has 13 goals playing primarily on the second line with center Evgeny Kuznetsov and on the second power-play unit. He's on pace for 25 goals. He hasn't had more than 22 since he scored 33 in the 2006-07 season.

"It's more responsibility," Williams said. "You ask the guys who have letters on their jersey, it makes them more accountable. You're the face when you win, the face when you lose. You're accountable to your teammates more."

Oshie tries to be accountable too. While Williams does it with his leadership, Oshie does it with his unstoppable energy. He seems to be impacting the Capitals' dressing room as much as Williams because of it.

"Oh yeah, this guy is like the Energizer bunny," Ovechkin said. "I think of the battery and those commercials, this guy is that. We're lucky to have him."

Oshie, who has 15 goals, said he feels like he's the envy of every right wing in the NHL because he plays with Backstrom and Ovechkin.

"I'd think so," he said. "I mean, to step in and play with Nicky and O, I'm very fortunate."

His role in D.C. has taken the sting away from being traded by the St. Louis Blues in the summer. Oshie said he was devastated when the Blues traded him for forward Troy Brouwer. The Blues were his team and St. Louis was his home. He thought he even might retire there.

He's changed his thinking. Winning helps, but so does quickly finding a fit on a new team.

"The hardest part was the culture change, having new teammates and new buddies," Oshie said. "But that transition happened quickly and everything followed after."

He's become a favorite teammate to so many Capitals players.

"He's extremely well liked," Laich said. "I talked to [Blues forward] Jaden Schwartz, who I work out in the summer with, about T.J. before I even met T.J. and he's like, 'Oh man, you're getting my best buddy, you're going to love him, just love him.' So I had a little bit of information on him coming in and it's even better than I was told. He's fit in great."

So has Williams. Trotz notices it just about every game, with his ears and his eyes.

"They have an impact on the people around them," Trotz said.


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