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Capitals Talk: What’s Said in Those On-Ice Scrums?

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Chatting with the Caps about the chatter they hear on the ice

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Columbus Blue Jackets at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In the game of hockey, anything goes in the goal crease. It’ll be a vicious battle in front, with snow flying up from quick stops and sticks whacking at goalie pads in order to get a rebound.

But once the whistle blows and played is stop, everything unravels. Havoc breaks outs, an all-out war of pushing and shoving in front of the net.

“That ten foot half circle around the net is a scoring area, primarily it’s also the most competitive area. The refs let more go there than any other place on the ice,” Matt Niskanen explained.

The battle in front of the net usually ensues when it comes to rebounds or crashing the net. It’s a simple thing in the game of hockey: go hard to the net and do whatever you can to get the puck past the goaltender. But it’s the one golden rule that leads to an all-out war of pushing and shoving and vocalization.

“There’s always kind of a culture and attitude that you need to protect that area, protect your goalie,” Niskanen said. “Teams that want to score get to that area consistently... with competitiveness comes the old scrum and some verbal exchanges.”

These pushing matchups are common, however, they don’t happen without a reason. Travis Boyd said in a physical match-up or tight game, those battles in front of the net grow in intensity, making the aftermath a bit more chaotic if it gets to a certain point.

While it can get a bit hectic, Boyd said that the scrums can be one of his favourite part of the game.

“I think they’re kind of fun, you just get in there and tie up with someone and all that, but it’s usually no harm,” he smiled.

From a goalie’s perspective, Copley said he thinks that it’s “awesome” when his teammates come to his aid, and that it’s always “fun to battle” as long as he can still make a save. Otherwise, being able to go one-on-one with forwards and compete to get the puck is a part of the game that means a lot to him.

As far as the net scrums go, he admitted that he’ll stay out of it or go for a quick skate-around and lets the skaters do the talking.

“I don’t hear much of it,” Copley admitted, adding with a laugh, “I think a lot of it goes on, I don’t know, not too close to the net or near me. I just stand there. I’m just in my area and whatever happens happens.”

As tensions flare in the crease, Boyd said that comedy also ensues based on what’s said. And while some guys have good chirps, others, like teammate Jakub Vrana, aren’t the best at coming up with comebacks on the fly.

“There’s some really funny people you’ll play against, and when they come up with creative chirps, creative ways to try and get under your skin. Sometimes they’re saying something that’s pretty mean about you, [but] it’s pretty hard not to laugh,” Boyd said.

Niskanen agreed, and added that even though the hockey community is tight knit, with a lot of players having been former teammates or good friends, that’s forgotten about when they step on the ice.

“It can get a little nasty, and not everybody’s going to be your best bud out there. It can get a little cut throat,” Niskanen said.

For Boyd, the on-ice battles are often said and done and forgotten about when he gets back to the bench. However, Niskanen said it’s not always that way, explain that “hockey players have a long memory sometimes” and there are instances where the old saying “forgive and forget” doesn’t ring true.

“You remember who’s hard to play against, who’s got a mouth on them, and sometimes it’s just over and done when you say something, you battle then it’s over, and with other times, there’s kind of where you write the guy’s number down and put it in the bank,” Niskanen smiled. “You look for an opportunity to get them back.”