They were the five games that changed Sean Collins’ summer.
Called up from the Hershey Bears to the Washington Capitals last year at the end of the regular season, Collins logged around 64 minutes of ice time for the Capitals and made an appearance in at least one playoff game. It was enough to let the defenseman know the team had confidence in him.
“It actually changed a lot,” said Collins of his approach going into the summer, during which he was re-signed by Washington. “It meant a lot to me that they called me up at the end of the year and that they threw me into a playoff game. “
Collins also had time to acclimate himself with his teammates.
“It got me a lot more comfortable with the guys. I really spent the last two months of the season with them,” said Collins. “It was fresh in my head. I know I can play, and I feel like I can make a difference at this level, and I feel pretty confident that they know that too.”
The blue line for the Capitals remains tight right now, on a roster that boasts names like Mike Green, Dennis Wideman, John Carlson and Karl Alzner. But Collins said that even should it a roster spot not work out for him with training camp, he’s hopeful he’ll get a few chances when call ups from Hershey inevitably come during the season.
Collins also got a new trainer over the summer and said he felt he came into camp in the best shape possible.
“I knew we had that skating test, so I was preparing a lot for it,” Collins said, referring to the new on-ice conditioning test the Capitals took at the beginning of training camp. “I struggled pretty bad with it today [Saturday]. The first day of camp, you always come in with a little bit of nerves, it might affect your breathing a little bit.”
Collins said he got an email about halfway through the summer about the conditioning test, which he ran several times, often after practices.
While he wasn’t as excited about how he did test-wise Saturday, Collins said he still feels lucky to be a part of the organization.
“It’s a great group of guys, it’s a great coaching staff,” Collins said. He was in skating group A this week, which also featured marquee NHLers like Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble.
And that’s enough to make up for what everyone knows will be a grueling first few days of camp.
“No matter how hard you prepare all summer, it’s still going to be tough,” Collins said.