In 2009, Kevin Shattenkirk was in the Capitals locker room at Verizon Center as a member of the Boston Terriers playing in the Frozne Four. He holds fond memories of that time as he helped the Terriers win the tournament for a national championship.
Eight years later, Shattenkirk has another happy memory in his return to that locker room: His first home win with the Washington Capitals.
“Last time I was in here I think we were going really crazy after a win,” Shattenkirk said. “It was a heck of a day, but it's a lot of fun to just be back in here and experience that again.”
The stakes may not have been as high in Thursday’s game against the New Jersey Devils, but it was an important step for what the Capitals hope to be a championship season with their prized deadline acquisition settling into the lineup.
“Made some real good poise plays in tight areas,” Barry Trotz said after the game. “He wasn't being safe, he was actually a little more relaxed. I think it was good.”
Shattenkirk continued what has appeared to be a rather seamless transition into the Capitals lineup, playing a team-high 21:24, including a whopping 7:23 on the power play, in his first home game as a Capital.
“I think whenever there's more minutes, especially on a power play, for a guy like me it helps me,” Shattenkirk said. “Just feeling the puck and starting to kind of get that back into my game during a game.”
When a defenseman leads the team in ice time for a game just two games after being acquired by that team, it shows a remarkable level of confidence by the coaching staff. Talking to his teammates, it’s easy to see why Trotz feels that way.
“He doesn't have any holes in his game,” Carlson said. “There's adjustments for sure that he's dealing with … but I think [it] helps feeling a part of us right away and then his skills can shine.”
“He's patient, he's a smart player,” Braden Holtby said. “He's very skilled. Obviously everyone sees the skill but he played with two different D partners he has never played with before and he looks like they've played together all year.”
Shattenkirk played alongside Brooks Orpik on the third pair in Orpik’s return from a lower-body injury. Those two are expected to remain a pair into the playoffs and they looked to be in sync together right away, though there remain a few kinks to work out.
“I think I was almost the recipient of some of his hits,” Shattenkirk said. “He flies around out there and lays his body on the line. Little things that we have to work out ourselves, little plays together. But all around, I know that I have a solid guy back there who can really cover for me whenever I need him to.”
All of this should be music to the ears of Capitals fans who have seen a parade of deadline acquisitions fizzle in the Alex Ovechkin era as they were unable to adjust to their new team.
It may be a small sample size, but two games in there seems to be no growing pains at all for a player the Caps hope will be a major key in a championship run.
That enthusiasm is shared by the fans.
In the first period of a sleepy game on Thursday that offered little to cheer about, the fans gave Shattenkirk a thunderous ovation when he was shown on the video screen during a stoppage in play.
“I've known that this fan base is great and they've supported this team for a long time,” Shattenkirk said, “But even a little thing like that, for a guy like me who hasn't been here before, it was very special and meant a lot to me.”
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