But the biggest difference between now and 2009 to 2011? The smiles. They’re everywhere. The ease in their steps as they leave the ice. From 20-year-old Cody Eakin, who would die happy if he got his first NHL playoff shift, to Mike Knuble, a proud captain trying to play his way back onto a line at 39, it seems contagious.
Everybody who remembers the past three years before Game 1 of the first round says the mood was lighter this time, the locker room more jovial. No President’s Trophy to validate like in 2009. No chance of Barry Melrose or Don Cherry proclaiming on television, “Without a doubt, the Washington Capitals will be raising the Stanley Cup come June.”
No pressure this time. Just playoffs, something no one around here takes for granted anymore.