After An Emotional Winter Classic Victory Mike Knuble Feels “Very Confident” The Caps Can Turn It Around

January 10, 2011 – 6:45 am by Steven Cuce

The Winter Classic has become a staple of the NHL since its inception at Ralph Wilson Stadium in 2008. The Pittsburgh Penguins have appeared now in two of the four Winter Classic games, hosting the venue for the first time at the start of the new year. The Washington Capitals were a popular pick as the opponent for the game due to the fact that have arguably the best player and face of NHL in Alexander Ovechkin. I’m sure many Pittsburgh Penguins fans would contest with me that the best player in the NHL and the face of the league is Sidney Crosby. This argument along withthe hatred both squads have for each other is why this rivalry has become an up-and-coming one for the NHL and one the league hopes will continue.

Right winger, Mike Knuble, plays alongside Ovechkin. He scored a game-tying goal in the second period of the 2011 Winter Classic to even the score at 1-1. It was the type of goal that has become a signature of Knuble’s career where he has seemingly made his “living” out in front of the net. Knuble battled a few players in front to get a loose puck putting it past Marc-Andre Fleury. The goal helped propel the Capitals in the second period eventually leading to a 3-1 victory that will now become bragging rights for Washington in their on-going rivarly against Pittsburgh.

Last season the Capitals won their first ever Presidents’ Trophy award leading the NHL overall in points at 121. They went into the postseason as the predominant favorite, although they had the reputation of really being a team with strong offense firepower, but no defense to fall back on. The Capitals were upset in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs by the Montreal Canadians and the dominating goaltending of Jaroslav Halák. This season it seemed as though the Capitals haven’t bounced back from one of the biggest upsets in NHL post-season history last year standing at 5th overall in the Eastern Conference as well as second place in the Southeast division.

Mike Knuble joined the Sports Fix with Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro on ESPN 980 in D.C.to discuss playing in the “spectacle” that was the 2011 Winter Classic against Pittsburgh, on the players of the Washington Capitals watching the HBO’s special: 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic, on the opinion of the Washington Capitals players caring more about points and division standings at this point, on very few hockey players in this modern day NHL making their “living” in front of the net, on Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau “hamming” it up on HBO’s special: 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic and why the Washington Capitals did not shake hands with the Pittsburgh Penguins after the Winter Classic ended.

On playing in the “spectacle” that was the 2011 Winter Classic against Pittsburgh?

“Yeah that’s a good way to describe it as a “spectacle” then you throw in a rain delay and all that as a weather delay. It was fun. The league does a nice job with it and it’s turned into a real nice event. I think our players enjoyed it. Obviously when you win the game it makes it much more memorable.”

On the players of the Washington Capitals watching the HBO’s special: 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic?

“The 24/7? Oh yeah we all see that. We’ve all seen that. It’s been great. I think it’s been fun to watch. Our team has come a long way in that series in four hours of TV.”

On the opinion of the Washington Capitals players caring more about points and division standings at this point or just getting it together to play better hockey as a group before worrying about positioning?

“Well I think it’s starting to creep into our thoughts a little bit more with 40 games left about half the season. The fact is that we’re not in first place in our division, so that’s something we want. Obviously by gaining that (first place in the division) you get the third seed and you’re assured a top two or three seed in the conference come playoff time in the seedings. I think that’s very important for us. I feel very confident in our group that by the end of 82 regular season games we’ll be first in our division. I think we’ll have a chance to even be first in our conference. We still play Pittsburgh a couple of more times. I’m thinking we’re playing the Flyers a few more times, so the teams ahead of us, we see them and we kind of have a chance to control our own fate you know with our situation with them.”

On very few hockey players in this modern day NHL making their “living” in front of the net scoring goals after Knuble’s goal in the 2011 Winter Classic?

“Yeah I think as a player I’ve found my niche you know. It took me awhile in my career to find that niche and to find out what I do well and get the results you know. I think once people believe in you as far as what you can do and as a player you figure out how you’re going to be successful and once people start believing that they put you in that situation where you can be successful. For me as a player I know where I’m gonna get fed down there. I know I’m going to do what I’m going to do and that’s right in front of the net. That’s something I enjoy doing. Like you say I don’t know if it’s a lost art or anything like that, but you know you have to be put in the right situation. You have to play with the right players and guys are going to get the puck to the net otherwise you are there for no reason. So if you’re getting put in the right spot and you’re playing with the right guys and they get the puck to the net a lot of the time you are going to benefit.”

On Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau “hamming” it up on HBO’s special: 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic or is that how he really acts in the locker room?

“No, that’s it you know. You were really getting him stepping out in front in that first episode. He was ranting and raving, but that’s how it’s going. That was nothing unexpected. I mean we knew we were going to be in for something like that and that’s what happens in locker rooms all across the league. That’s a very fair assessment of what really happens in a locker room. He was not happy and the players aren’t happy. We looked like we were mopping around in the first episode, episode and half, as our fans could see. That’s what was going on. That’s how we all felt. When you don’t win in the league it’s frustrating and that’s what we’re here to do win in hockey and when you don’t it’s very evident in all of our faces.”

On why the Washington Capitals did not shake hands with the Pittsburgh Penguins after the Winter Classic ended?

“Yeah I don’t even know. Probably most guys didn’t know we were suppose to shake hands and their kind of saying “oh we gotta shake hands?” I think they (Pittsburgh Penguins) were milling about too. I don’t know if it wasn’t communicated or whatever, but it’s no big deal. We don’t shake hands in the regular season. That’ll be more of a little “pageantry” thing for the league and for the people on TV to see. The players don’t really care. Either way it doesn’t matter. We don’t do it. The only time you shake hands is at the end of a playoff series. We’re fine with that.”

Listen to Mike Knuble on ESPN 980 here

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