Early Playoff Exit Affected Caps' Mindset

Mike Green saw psychologist after first-round loss

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Lindsay Czarniak sits down with Capitals defenseman Mike Green. (Published Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010)

    The early first-round exit by the Capitals had a big impact on the players' mentality.

    Want proof? Look no further than Mike Green.

    One-on-One With Alex Ovechkin

    [DC] One-on-One With Alex Ovechkin
    Lindsay Czarniak talks with Alex Ovechkin about the Washington Capitals' upcoming season. (Published Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010)

    The team's star defenseman -- who followed up a denial by the Canadian Olympic team with a poor playoff performance and then hid from the media immediately afterward -- decided he needed to re-adjust not only his training regiment this offseason, but his mindset, as well.

    He told NBC4's Lindsay Czarniak this week that he talked with sports psychologists over the summer to help him deal with a disappointing end of to a frustrating season of hockey.

    One-on-One With Mike Knuble

    [DC] One-on-One With Mike Knuble
    Lindsay Czarniak talks contracts and more with Washington Capitals winger Mike Knuble. (Published Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010)

    "I think I'm in a good state right now," Green said. "I worked on myself over the summer. I talked with sports psychologists on how to prepare myself to play in the playoffs. I'm ready to go. I'm a confident player right now."

    But Green wasn't the only Cap to seek help over the offseason on how to deal with the failure the team experienced while losing to Montreal in the first round of the playoffs.

    One-on-One With Bruce Boudreau

    [DC] One-on-One With Bruce Boudreau
    Lindsay Czarniak talks commericals and the coming season with Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau. (Published Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010)

    Brooks Laich said he reached out to other players to help put things into perspective. He said he broached the subject with vets Mike Sillinger, Ryan Smyth and Ray Whitney while playing at the World Championships to see how they handled not only frustration and disappointment, but how they dealt with winning, as well.

    "They are tremendous hockey minds," he said. "They're players who have been around, been through the ups and downs. I just tried to soak in as much as I could and learn from them."

    Laich admitted that, mentally, this was the toughest offseason he has endured.

    "It's kind of funny when you talk to fans and they say they were bitterly disappointed after the loss last year," Laich said. "Well, you take their frustration and multiply it by a million and you have one of our player's frustration.

    "Myself, I was born 27 years ago and I've been chasing the Stanley Cup ever since. It's all I've ever known," he said. "And when you put in 12 months of work with the offseason, the preparation, the weight room, the practices -- and you're never guaranteed anything -- you put in that work and you want to see results and all of a sudden you're knocked out in the first round. It's not very easy to take. Waking up in the middle of the night and not sleeping for a few hours because you're frustrated.

    "I only played four rounds of golf this summer, so it's not like I went home and blew it off and went, 'Oh well, I have a contract. I'll try again next year,'" Laich continued. "We take this very personally. We want to be the best. We want to be the team that everybody looks at. We want to be the Stanley Cup champions. This was a very tough offseason mentally. But I think we'll be better players and a better hockey club for it."

    Mike Knuble, a veteran leader on the team who has been through many playoff runs, said he understands how losing can affect players in certain ways.

    "We were in town a month after (getting booted from the playoffs), and it was kind of a reminder that you're still in the environment ... people look at you and don't know what to say," Knuble said. "It's kind of a weird feeling. I think everyone handles it a certain way and takes losing a certain way. I guess there is like a grieving period for a lot of guys."

    But not everyone deals with the heartache and disappointment the same way. While Green and Laich seemed to stew over defeat, Alex Ovechkin said he tried to put it all out of his mind. And from the pictures that hit the blogs this summer, it looks like he did just that.

    "For two months I just do nothing but relax, have a great time and forget about hockey," Ovie said. "When the time comes (for training camp), I just told myself, 'OK, you have to work hard. You have to be ready for the year.' You have to show not only yourself, but your team and everybody that this is our year. You have to play better than you did last year. I think we're ready and I think the organization wants it. We're ready."

    It seems they'll be ready both mentally and physically this time around.