It might be time to tweak John Carlson’s nickname from “Captain America” to “Captain Confidence.”
Corey Masisak authored a great piece during preseason on how confidence is a trademark of Carlson’s game, and the theme reappeared this weekend when Carlson talked about the loss to Atlanta Friday and the crazy 7-2 win over the New Jersey Devils Saturday.
Take Carlson’s quote about the Devils jumping rookie 5’11 Marcus Johannson at the end of the game.
“I don’t want to say too much, but if you’re going to pick anyone on the ice, I wouldn’t pick an 18, 19-year-old kid out there in his second game in the NHL,” the twenty-year-old Carlson said of the just-turned twenty-year-old Johannson.
Carlson, who had a goal and two assists in his second game as a regular NHL starter, also answered questions about Friday night’s loss like a seasoned veteran Saturday morning after practice at Kettler. I haven’t interviewed Carlson much – though he’s definitely used to media – but even I noticed a change in how he interviews over last year. His insights are keener, and he approaches the interview with a patience and efficiency that you see in leaders like Mike Knuble.
Carlson’s thoughts on Friday’s loss were straightforward but insightful. It’s not a stretch to think it would be demoralizing for a team who just wants to put last postseason’s demons behind them and move on to get smacked with a loss (to Atlanta) right when the bell rings.
“We can settle in and just play our game, and not have to worry about being perfect all the time,” Carlson said of moving past Friday’s loss. “Everyone might have been a little bit too antsy to play instead of just to settle in and play our game.”
What’s interesting about that phrase is the being perfect all the time. Maybe that’s part of the Capitals’ postseason mindblock. It’s rare that a perfect regular season in any sport translates into a championship (just ask the Patriots), and obsessing on living up to your talent can grow debilitating.
The flipside in embracing a “we-don’t-have-to-be-perfect” mentality is you can grow careless and the work ethic can suffer, but Carlson isn’t going soft on expectations.
“I think that it shook us up a little bit, which we needed,” Carlson said, referring to Friday’s 4-2 setback. “We expect a lot better of ourselves.”
And he also put faith in the resiliency of confidence.
“We have enough confidence in the room that we’re not going to get down over one loss,” Carlson said.
Saturday’s game proved Carlson right. After a shaky period and a half had Washington down 2-1, Carlson said Thomas Fleishmann’s goal to tie the game in the second changed things for the Capitals.
“It kind of came at us like, “Okay, we got our mojo back now,” Carlson said of the goal.
Alexander Ovechkin aside, Carlson uses Mike Green and Alexander Semin as examples of players who could vie for most confident in the Capitals’ locker room, though he said it’s a big part of any hockey player’s game.
“If they get stopped, they still believe in themselves that they can go down there and score every time,” Carlson said. He added that he “can’t say enough about” Green and that he’s learned a lot from him.