"A month ago he said, 'Daddy, if we don't go back to L.A., I think you should go to play with Ovechkin because he's the best,'" Williams recalled.
Ovechkin is a three-time Hart Trophy winner as NHL MVP and is a point-a-game performer in seven playoff appearances. But in that stretch the Capitals are 3-6 in Game 7 and haven't advanced past the second round.
Enter Williams, the Cobourg, Ont., native who earned the "Mr. Game 7" nickname by going 7-0 with seven goals and seven assists in Game 7 situations in the NHL. The Capitals are hoping signing the three-time Stanley Cup-winner to a US$7.5-million, two-year deal helps them hit the jackpot.
"He just brings the things that we need that we don't have," Washington general manager Brian MacLellan said on a conference call Thursday. "We're looking to get over the hump, and he's been there before. I think he can have an effect on our team to get us there."
Signing Williams was just the first part of the Capitals' makeover. On Thursday they acquired fellow right-winger T.J. Oshie from the St. Louis Blues for Troy Brouwer, goaltending prospect Pheonix Copley and a 2016 third-round pick.
"We feel that he complements our core group nicely and can help us get to the next level in achieving our ultimate goal," MacLellan said in a statement.
Williams wants to make that happen, too. He hates being known as "Mr. Game 7," crediting teammates, but his personal stats tell a conflicting story.
Most recently Williams scored a goal and assisted on the overtime winner when the Los Angeles Kings beat the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of the 2014 Western Conference final. Williams then had seven points against the New York Rangers to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP and help the Kings win the Cup for the second time in three years.
Williams, who turns 34 before the start of the regular season, also won the Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. Williams isn't quite sure what makes playoff or Game 7 success but has been a part of plenty of it.
"Sometimes it's just a face in the room, it's an intangible quality, sometimes it's certain guys stepping up and having a big game, making a big play," Williams said on a conference call. "I don't know if I'm the answer, but I'm going to do my darndest to prove to everyone, to my teammates and myself that I can be a difference-maker, and I want to be for this team."
Adding Williams and Oshie can't hurt. The Capitals can now feature a top six of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Oshie, Williams and young stars Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky.
Williams bristled at being on the verge of 34, but he's the grey beard in that group. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
"I think he'll have a big effect on Kuznetsov and Burakovsky, and I also think he'll have a good effect on Ovi and Backstrom," MacLellan said. "It's good to have a guy that has won Cups and been through the wars as he has."
With Brouwer gone, Williams is one of just two Washington players with a Cup ring, joining Brooks Orpik, who won with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. But talking with coach Barry Trotz and watching the Capitals in the playoffs made him excited about signing.
Williams is well-aware of the Capitals' Game 7 failures but saw in this post-season a team close to breaking through.
"This team battles hard and I like what I've seen," Williams said. "I'm just going to try and be me. Come in here, try and be me and hope that that's enough to earn the respect of my teammates and help us get over a little hump."
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