Facebook Twitter

Caps still shooting for moon vs. Wings

SHARE Caps still shooting for moon vs. Wings

Ron Wilson's "moon" speech is now a part of Washington hockey history. Now it's launch time for the Capitals in the Stanley Cup finals.

In their Eastern Conference Championship series with the Buffalo Sabres, the Washington coach alluded to Neil Armstrong's moon landing as a comparison to the Capitals making the finals.The Capitals, said Wilson, had gone where no Washington team had gone before. And they're ready for the next giant step as they prepare to meet the powerful Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night in the opening of the championship round.

As far as Wilson is concerned, the moon analogy fits even more now.

"We were trying to do something that a lot of people in Washington at the start of the season thought was impossible," Wilson said Monday in explaining his thoughts about the moon metaphor.

It was about teamwork as well, he said.

"For example, you would know the names of the three astronauts on Apollo 11, but there were thousands of people in the background who were really just as important as those three astronauts. And that is what we wanted to get across: A lot of people out there were supporting us and really cared."

The Capitals are truly entering another world as a franchise. Although they have several players with postseason experience, some even with Stanley Cup rings, this is their first appearance in the finals in their 24-year history.

The Red Wings are the defending league champions, having won their eighth title last season. They are heavy favorites to beat the Capitals, a team that finished 11 points behind them in the league standings.

But the Capitals are a confident bunch after beating Boston, Ottawa and Buffalo on their way to the Eastern Conference Championship.

"You guys can write what you want - that it is going to be a (Detroit) sweep, but we definitely don't believe that and I'm sure they don't," said Olaf Kolzig, who has sparked the Capitals with his fine goaltending. "Two teams don't get into this situation and think they are going to win it in four straight."

The Red Wings agree.

"We know that Washington is a very good opponent," Detroit center Kris Draper said. "They have been playing some great hockey, especially away from their rink. They have a great road record (7-1).

"I mean, they are going to come into (Joe Louis Arena) with a lot of confidence."

Detroit coach Scotty Bowman thinks the Capitals actually match up very well with his team.

"They are unique, very similar to ours," he said. "They are strong on the Europeans. They have some good strength down the middle. They obviously have a very strong mental approach now because they have had terrific goaltending, not just in the playoffs, but probably the last half of the season. And it is a veteran team."

The Red Wings advanced to their third finals in four years with victories over Phoenix, St. Louis and Dallas in the West. They are seeking to become the first NHL team to repeat as champion since Pittsburgh did it in 1991-92.

One more Stanley Cup would give Bowman a record-tying eighth, putting him alongside former mentor Toe Blake. It is a staggering figure to Wilson.

"What is this, (Bowman's) 12th final? And he's won seven times. Unbelievable. I'm trying to win once, and that would be incredible."

Wilson would come up with another "moon" speech as a motivational tactic. But what would he tell his team this time now that his players have already landed in the finals?

"We have to bring it back," Wilson said, "I don't want to get stuck on the moon."