In the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs, Carl Hagelin got to see a few familiar faces and play a series versus his former team, the New York Rangers. In the second round, it’s Eric Fehr’s turn to play against some old friends.
Fehr played nine of his first 10 seasons in the NHL with Washington. After scoring 19 goals with the Capitals last year – the second-highest total of his career – Fehr flipped sweaters and signed a three-year contract with Pittsburgh last summer.
After a practice earlier this week, one of the media members jokingly asked Fehr if he will be asking his teammate for advice about facing a former club.
“Yeah, we’ll see what he says,” Fehr smiled. “It’s never easy. There’s a lot of different factors involved in it, but at the end of the day, it’s hockey and you want to win the game. We’re really excited in this room for the opportunity. They’re playing well, but we have a lot of confidence in our room.”
Before the team jetted to the nation’s capital after their skate on Wednesday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, Fehr acknowledged that this will be a special series for him – especially starting in the building he called home for so many years.
“It’s definitely going to be an emotional series for myself,” he said. “Going back for the first two games at Verizon Center, they’re games you want to win and they’re going to be good contests. Obviously they’ve got a good team over there and I’m very familiar with them. I know what they’re going to bring, so I think our team has to be very prepared for that first game.”
The Penguins have had a standard policy of taking things one day at a time this season, so it should be no issue for Fehr to put the past behind him. But having played on both teams, he certainly has an interesting perspective on the matchup. Particularly, the much anticipated rivalry between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.
“I’m not going to lie, I think both players get up for the games,” Fehr explained. “I think a lot of it is fan driven and media driven, but it’s hard to argue it when you see how hard they play against each other and how into it the fans get for those games. It’s definitely exciting to watch, and it’s going to be a good series.”
There’s one thing in particular that stands out to Fehr about those two.
“They want the puck on their sticks in the key moments and in the big games,” Fehr said. “Both great leaders in their own ways; both guys that seem to rise to the occasion when there’s a big event and there’s a big game.”
The other generational talent that will be featured in the series is Evgeni Malkin, who finished the opening round on a line with Fehr.
“I like just being able to give Geno the puck and trying to get him just a little bit of space or create a little bit of room for him,” Fehr said. “He does a lot of work and he wants the puck on his stick, which is great. I want it in shooting areas, he wants it all over the ice.”
Fehr, Malkin, Crosby and Ovechkin were all part of that epic 2009 postseason matchup, which the Pens won in seven games. It’s been seven years since that series, but although there’s been a long wait, everyone is excited to see these teams compete with one another.
“Everybody knows that this is going to be an intense series,” Fehr said. “It’s going to be an exciting matchup. The fans are going to be up for it. I think the buildings are going to be rocking, and it’s going to be fun.”
The Pens and Caps are two of the hottest teams in the league right now, and this long-anticipated matchup should prove to be a great series.
“You knew if you wanted a chance to win the Cup you’re going to have to go through that team,” Fehr explained. “Obviously they’ve played well the whole year. I think our team has started playing a lot better the second half of the season, and we’re playing some pretty good hockey right now. It’s definitely going to be a high-powered matchup.”