McPhee Part 2: 'I'd go to war with these guys'

McPhee Part 2: 'I'd go to war with these guys'
May 18, 2013, 8:30 am
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Following the Capitals’ first-round playoff elimination by the New York Rangers, general manager George McPhee met with reporters to share his thoughts on the 2013 season, head coach Adam Oates and what it might take for the Caps to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

In Part Two of the interview, McPhee looks at how this year’s team compares with others during the Alex Ovechkin era, whether it’s time to make a major change to the roster and if the Caps lack a killer mentality:

On whether he looks for common threads from one playoff year to the next:

I’ve certainly done that over the years. Sometimes you can look at it and say, ‘We just weren’t good enough in this area.’ Other years, you say, ‘You know what? We were a good team, we played well, and we didn’t get the bounces.’ If you go all the way back to that first year [2008] when we played Philadelphia in the first round, we were young, we were green in the beginning and then we came on [winning Games 5 and 6 before losing Game 7 in overtime]. … There were other times, like when we lost to Tampa in the second round [in 2011]. Our blue line got really thin and you can point to that and say we just weren’t good enough. But this year, this was a good team. Actually, going into the playoffs I mentioned to a few people, ‘I’m almost disappointed that it’s Caps and Rangers in the first round because these are two really good teams.’ They played really well down the stretch and both are strong and well-balanced and a good team is going to get knocked out here. There were a couple of teams that were really stumbling down the stretch. You hope you catch one of those, but we didn’t.

On whether, after six years, he believes changes need to be made, or if the current collection of players has grown stale:

I don’t think that playing in the playoffs ever gets stale. Winning hockey games never gets stale. Winning never gets stale. We can put the best team we can on the ice and cross your fingers and hope they go deep.

On whether, after getting similar playoff results in recent years, the Caps have reached their potential:

[Maybe] when you get too old and can’t play anymore. But these guys, I’d go to war with these guys. These are good players. Where do you get another [Alex] Ovechkin? Nick Backstrom’s a heck of a player. Mike Green’s a heck of a player. [John] Carlson’s on his way. We’ve got a lot of good young players and you keep going to war with them. We’ve made the playoffs six years in a row. I mean, how many teams have done that? It’s not easy to do in this league. And they played their guts out n the playoffs. Would they have liked to have done more and scored more? Sure. Mike Green led our team in scoring. Ovi, every time he steps on the ice he’s got the other team’s best players trying to shut him down. We just down their best player in [Rick] Nash. They shut down our best player. It happens from time to time. I’ve been fortunate enough to work for another club [Vancouver] that went to the Finals. You go through one series when a certain player [Trevor Linden/Pavel Bure?] didn’t get as much done as he’d like to get done, but in the next series he’s terrific. Not every player is great in every series. It doesn’t happen very often. And if it does happen he’s usually the Conn Smythe winner.

On being up 2-0 and 3-2 in the series against the Rangers and if the Capitals need to learn how to close out a series:

I don’t know. You approach every game and try to win it. We didn’t change anything from the way we played in the regular season. We played some real tough games down the stretch, real high-pressure games to make the playoffs. The guys came through, they delivered. They played really well. We got into the playoffs, won the first two games. We were playing well, we go into New York and I loved the way we started Game 3. We were up 1-0 and then things change. I don’t know why there were six penalties in the first 30 minutes of that game. I don’t know why. What did we do to deserve that? And then you come back to Washington, you win a game, now you’re up 3-2 going back and it’s 5-0 power plays [in favor of New York]. It’s probably unprecedented in a 1-0 hockey game in this league. One team gets five power plays and one team gets nothing. I can’t explain that. I don’t know why that happens.

On if he spoke to NHL supervisors about that:

Yeah, I talked to them during the series, but at some point you stop. They’ll referee the way they’ll referee.