TAMPA, Fla. -- The Washington Capitals stood at their bench, waiting for the "hot lap" around the rink to end before practice could begin on Wednesday morning. As is tradition, the team switched up the skater taking the first lap after a road loss.
Captain Alex Ovechkin had opened practice with a hot lap since Game 6 of the semifinals, when they eliminated the Penguins in Pittsburgh. But a Game 5 loss at the Tampa Bay Lightning meant a new skater before Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals: their 55-year-old head coach, Barry Trotz.
The biggest question entering the morning skate has been answered: #Caps Coach Barry Trotz took the hot lap, replacing Alex Ovechkin after a Game 5 loss here in Tampa. #ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/UaEdwU5YI6— Tarik El-Bashir⌨️🎙🏒 (@TarikNBCS) May 23, 2018
"We had to change. We lost here last time," Trotz said after practice. "I look at it real simply: They called my number. At this time of year, you're all-in. I was ready."
The players banged their sticks in appreciation as Trotz finished his lap. He dropped to one knee like Ovechkin does ... and looked a little wobbly in the process.
"I almost bit it at the end there trying to imitate Ovi," Trotz said. "I was worried about the turns. The rudders haven't been sharpened all year. So you didn't see a lot of crossovers there. I used body mass and weight. It was a bit of a slow lap, but you're all-in. They call your number, you step up to the plate, gotta do it. Obviously, we're pretty loose."
How did his players feel about the 19-second lap?
"Good knee bend," center Jay Beagle said. "Worked his inside/outside edge. When he went down to the Ovi one knee? I was a little shocked by that, actually."
"Looked pretty smooth. He didn't fall, so I mean, it's considered a success," forward Devante Smith-Pelly said. "He's probably going to be pretty sore tomorrow. But he gets everyone excited, like Ovi did. Guys might have been even more excited today."
Moments like this are symbolic of the Capitals' approach to this postseason. A team that has been synonymous with playoff tension and dread is having fun out there, even as Game 7 arrives and with it a chance to play for the Stanley Cup.
"It's about having fun, keeping it light," forward Tom Wilson said. "It's a fun group. That's just another example that you guys get to see."