The smiling side of a handshake line at the end of the second round was a brand-new experience for Alex Ovechkin and Barry Trotz.
Ovechkin received a message of good luck and a pat on the chest from Sidney Crosby Anthony Duclair Jersey , while Trotz got to enjoy a happy moment with longtime coaching friend Jacques Martin. Ovechkin acknowledged he’d been in that position a lot of times – though never as the one moving on to the third round.
The Washington Capitals reaching the Eastern Conference final for the first time since 1998 is perhaps most special to the superstar captain and his coach who had never made it out of the second round before. No coach in NHL history had been behind the bench for more games than Trotz and no active player had been in as many playoff games as Ovechkin without reaching the conference finals.
”There is a kinship there, there’s no question,” Trotz said. ”I’ve been at this for a while and it’s so hard to move forward sometimes. It’s always thrown in your face everywhere your turn. I know it’s thrown in Ovi’s face everywhere he turns, and he’s a great player in this league. … I knew the frustration because you’re so close and you just can’t get it, and you just got to stay with it.”
After 51 playoff games together, Ovechkin and Trotz will take part in their first East final starting Friday night in Tampa Bay against the Lightning. Now that they’ve gotten over a hump that defined their respective careers, Ovechkin, Trotz and the Capitals are in unfamiliar territory.
”It’s something new for us and cool,” Ovechkin said Wednesday John Tavares Jersey , less than 48 hours after Washington eliminated the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins. ”Right now it’s just satisfaction we beat the Stanley Cup champions finally and we move forward and now we’re going to play against a very good team, against very good goaltending and solid players over there.”
The Atlantic Division-champion Lightning present a formidable challenge, but the Capitals had to overcome something altogether different after losing in the first or second round in all nine playoff appearances that have come during the Ovechkin era dating to 2008. Beating the rival Penguins in overtime in a Game 6 on the road made the breakthrough even more emotional.
”We should be proud of that,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. ”It’s a big achievement. But I think we’ve got to be greedy. We’ve got to want more because this is a heck of a run. I don’t know if there is a group out there that knows how hard it is to get to this point.”
The Capitals are at this point with Ovechkin on top of his game with eight goals and seven assists, his best playoff output since 2009. And they’re here in large part because of Trotz, a well-respected, 19-year NHL coach who does not have a contract for next season.
”I had a summer which was very enlightening to me, and I just look at everything way differently than I ever have,” Trotz said. ”I just recognized that I can only control what I can control Authentic Max Domi Jersey , and the other stuff I can’t.”
Trotz can’t control upper-body injuries to Nicklas Backstrom and Andre Burakovsky or a three-game suspension handed out to winger Tom Wilson, only the decisions he makes in replacing them. So far, Trotz has pushed the right buttons, like putting Braden Holtby back in net in Game 2 of the first round and promoting Jakub Vrana to the top line in Game 5 against Pittsburgh.
His players know Trotz is in control as he and the Capitals advance further into the spring than they have in 20 years.
”He wants to win a Cup,” forward Chandler Stephenson said. ”He doesn’t want to make it past the second round. It’s obviously a little accomplishment, a little confidence-boost. But we’re not done yet. We’re only halfway.”
AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers believe they accomplished their major goals of upgrading the defensive line and a porous secondary through the draft after going 5-11 and missing the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season.
The Buccaneers added more defensive pieces Saturday, taking Pitt safety Jordan Whitehead in the fourth round and Wisconsin linebacker Jack Cichy during the sixth.
"Thirty-one teams passed up (taking me) so I've got a chip on my shoulder coming in already," Whitehead said.
Cichy didn't play in 2017 because of a knee injury that occurred in preseason camp.
"I feel great," he said. "I'm real close to 100 percent. I think by the time I get down there for minicamp and OTAs I'll be 100 percent."
Tampa Bay used its first-round pick Thursday to take Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea 12th overall. He will be plugged into a revamped defensive line anchored by six-time Pro Bowl tackle Gerald McCoy and bolstered by last month's trade for pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul and the signing of Beau Allen Jay Beagle Jersey , Vinny Curry and Mitch Unrein in free agency.
Tampa Bay ranked last in the NFL with 23 sacks a year ago.
The Buccaneers used a pair of second-round selections Friday to take cornerbacks M.J. Stewart from North Carolina and Auburn's Carlton Davis.
"We feel great," Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht said. "There's more of a better vibe, not that it was ever bad, more high-fives and more positive energy with all the coaches and scouts this year than I can remember."
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter knows that 6-foot-6, 304-pound guard Alex Cappa, taken in the third round from Division II Humboldt State, will be facing a major step-up in competition. "That's a different level of football," Koetter said. "Right when his season was over, he goes down to Phoenix and works out at an O-line place with a bunch of NFL guys. He's the right kind of guy but there's definitely a transition."
Tampa Bay has had previous drafting success with small-school offensive lineman http://www.officialkings.com/authentic-adidas-alex-iafallo-jersey , taking starting guard Ali Marpet from Division III Hobart College in the second round of the 2015 draft.
Former Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis is Whitehead's cousin.
"He gave me a lot of advice going through this process," Whitehead said. "Stay humble, anything can happen throughout this weekend."
FASTER THAN YOU MIGHT THINK
Second-round selection Ronald Jones II from USC is an explosive runner who the Buccaneers feel is faster than generally known.
"He's got track times, the ran guy 10.3-something 100-meters and multiple 10.5's," Koetter said. "He runs hard. He's going to bring something."
The Buccaneers took Penn wide receiver Justin Watson in the fifth round. He will graduate after taking his last final Wednesday at Penn's Wharton School.
"I didn't have a lot of I-A offers, in fact the only two offers I had at the I-A level were Buffalo and Akron out of the MAC," Watson said. "For me, Penn was just the best fit for both football and academics."
Tampa Bay could look to add depth at safety and the offensive line before the start of training camp.
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