Character Art Exchange

The chants

The smiling side of a handshake line at the end of the second round was a brand-new experience for Alex Ovechkin and Barry Trotz.

Ovechkin received a message of good luck and a pat on the chest from Sidney Crosby [url=http://www.ramscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-josh-reynolds-jersey]Josh Reynolds Jersey[/url] , while Trotz got to enjoy a happy moment with longtime coaching friend Jacques Martin. Ovechkin acknowledged he’d been in that position a lot of times – though never as the one moving on to the third round.

Until now.

The Washington Capitals reaching the Eastern Conference final for the first time since 1998 is perhaps most special to the superstar captain and his coach who had never made it out of the second round before. No coach in NHL history had been behind the bench for more games than Trotz and no active player had been in as many playoff games as Ovechkin without reaching the conference finals.

”There is a kinship there, there’s no question,” Trotz said. ”I’ve been at this for a while and it’s so hard to move forward sometimes. It’s always thrown in your face everywhere your turn. I know it’s thrown in Ovi’s face everywhere he turns, and he’s a great player in this league. … I knew the frustration because you’re so close and you just can’t get it, and you just got to stay with it.”

After 51 playoff games together, Ovechkin and Trotz will take part in their first East final starting Friday night in Tampa Bay against the Lightning. Now that they’ve gotten over a hump that defined their respective careers, Ovechkin, Trotz and the Capitals are in unfamiliar territory.

”It’s something new for us and cool,” Ovechkin said Wednesday, less than 48 hours after Washington eliminated the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins. ”Right now it’s just satisfaction we beat the Stanley Cup champions finally and we move forward and now we’re going to play against a very good team, against very good goaltending and solid players over there.”

The Atlantic Division-champion Lightning present a formidable challenge, but the Capitals had to overcome something altogether different after losing in the first or second round in all nine playoff appearances that have come during the Ovechkin era dating to 2008. Beating the rival Penguins in overtime in a Game 6 on the road made the breakthrough even more emotional.

”We should be proud of that,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. ”It’s a big achievement. But I think we’ve got to be greedy. We’ve got to want more because this is a heck of a run. I don’t know if there is a group out there that knows how hard it is to get to this point.”

The Capitals are at this point with Ovechkin on top of his game with eight goals and seven assists [url=http://www.broncoscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-menelik-watson-jersey]Menelik Watson Jersey[/url] , his best playoff output since 2009. And they’re here in large part because of Trotz, a well-respected, 19-year NHL coach who does not have a contract for next season.

”I had a summer which was very enlightening to me, and I just look at everything way differently than I ever have,” Trotz said. ”I just recognized that I can only control what I can control, and the other stuff I can’t.”

Trotz can’t control upper-body injuries to Nicklas Backstrom and Andre Burakovsky or a three-game suspension handed out to winger Tom Wilson, only the decisions he makes in replacing them. So far, Trotz has pushed the right buttons, like putting Braden Holtby back in net in Game 2 of the first round and promoting Jakub Vrana to the top line in Game 5 against Pittsburgh.

His players know Trotz is in control as he and the Capitals advance further into the spring than they have in 20 years.

”He wants to win a Cup,” forward Chandler Stephenson said. ”He doesn’t want to make it past the second round. It’s obviously a little accomplishment, a little confidence-boost. But we’re not done yet. We’re only halfway.”



AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed.



Mitchell Trubisky is tired of it all.

The Chicago quarterback has no use for the critics. And when it comes to social media, he’s taking a breather, too.

All Trubisky wants is to start training camp and see just how far the Bears can go in his second season after finishing last in the NFC North the past four years.

They came into their first practice Friday believing they are in a better position after a busy offseason. Whether they deliver largely hinges on the guy behind center.

”I’m tired of all the doubts [url=http://www.brownscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-emmanuel-ogbah-jersey]Emmanuel Ogbah Jersey[/url] , all the comparisons,” Trubisky said. ”I don’t really pay attention to that. I’m tired of waiting. I’m just excited camp is here and we’ll see what we can do for Year 2. So all of that stuff, I can’t control none of that. All I can do is control my attitude and my effort and go out there and play the game the way I know how.”

Don’t ask him about the improvements Carson Wentz and Jared Goff made from Year 1 to Year 2 last season. Trubisky isn’t all that interested.

The same goes for any outside critiques and distractions, so he’s taking a break from social media.

”(I’m) going Zero Dark 10,” he said, referencing his jersey number.

Trubisky, who hasn’t posted on Twitter since July 2, said he and guard Kyle Long decided to lay off social media and focus on football, instead.

”I’m trying to put all my focus and energy into this game and what I have to do,” he said. ”And whatever anyone else says on the outside, whether it be positive or negative or hype or just trying to tear me down, it really doesn’t matter to me. I know who I am, I know what kind of player I can be [url=http://www.brownscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-jamie-meder-jersey]Jamie Meder Jersey[/url] , I know my role on this team so that’s really what I’m looking forward to prove to myself and my team.”

Trubisky said he read a few too many comments from people who didn’t know what they were talking about. He saw no reason to ”let that enter my head,” so he decided to block it out completely.

”For me it’s just eliminating distractions and putting all my time and effort into what’s important,” he said.

As Trubisky goes, so probably go the Bears.

General manager Ryan Pace went all in when he traded up a spot with San Francisco to draft him with the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, staking his reputation to a quarterback with just 13 starts at North Carolina. The Bears also spent this past offseason surrounding Trubisky with the pieces they think will help him succeed, hiring an offensive-minded coach in Matt Nagy, signing former Pro Bowl receiver Allen Robinson and bringing in some more play-making targets.

”The kid genuinely cares about the game of football and his position,” Nagy said. ”He wants to be the greatest teammate on this team and he knows that if he does that, he’ll make guys around him better.”

Trubisky is in a far different spot than he was this time last year, when he began camp as the No. 3 quarterback. The Bears switched to Trubisky after Mike Glennon struggled through the first four games. But it was clear even in the preseason that he was the better option.

Now, Trubisky is front and center. It is clearly his huddle, his team. He is the leader.

The training wheels are off. Or, as Long put it [url=http://www.bearscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-prince-amukamara-jersey]Prince Amukamara Jersey[/url] , ”He’s got some facial hair and he’s got some bass in his voice.”

And Trubisky welcomes it.

”I feel a lot more comfortable than last year,” he said. ”I know my role, I know exactly what I need to do, I know the offense. I can just go out there and be myself. I know everybody on the team, I’ve earned their respect and trust and I’ll continue to do so through my work ethic and how much I care about this team and this game.”

Notes: Rookie LB Roquan Smith remained unsigned and missed the first training camp practice. He was Chicago’s first-round draft pick at No. 8 overall. ”Roquan is a great kid, a great football player and when the time comes for him to be here, he’ll be out here and he’ll get those reps back,” Nagy said. … LB Danny Trevathan and CB Sherrick McMcManis missed practice because of hamstring injuries, while WR Josh Bellamy sat out because of strep throat, Nagy said. He said Trevathan’s and McManis’ injuries were not serious.



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