When Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan signed Justin Williams as a free agent in the 2015 offseason, he did so because of the veteran forward’s ability to rise to the moment. Often times acquisitions like the Williams signing have a way of disappointing, but in the case of Williams, he’s been everything the Capitals could have hoped for an more. His overtime goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs in their pivot game 5 matchup tonight at Verizon Center is only further proof that Williams might be the best free-agent signing in Capitals History. Here are 3 reasons why:
- Calming influence - When the Capitals were down by a goal to the Leafs earlier in the series, Williams had an intermission interview with CBC’s Scott Oake. Oake insinuated that the Caps could be in trouble, but Williams just smiled and said, “Whoa, whoa! Let’s just maybe pump the brakes a little bit…we’ll be okay.” And indeed they were. Williams tied the game himself and the Capitals won in overtime.
- Keeping things light - For a team that’s been under near constant pressure for a decade, sometimes the best policy is to keep things light and fun. Williams is a serious competitor on the ice, with a ton of experience. But he also knows the value in making sure that his team is loose. There’s no better evidence of this than the 2016-17 Capitals team photo. The shot features an afro’ed Williams front and center with a giant grin on his face.
- Big game, bigger goal - Tonight, facing a 3-2 series deficit agains the 8th seed team Williams needed only 3 seconds to bury the puck past Frederik Andersen and push the Leafs to the brink. With Williams, it seems that the higher pressure the situation, the better suited he is.
Whatever fate awaits the Capitals in this playoff run, they’ll undoubtedly have to rely on Williams along the way. And, if his history is any indication, the veteran wouldn’t have it any other way.