He said those thoughts, however, remained squarely on hockey, something he couldn't say the last time he was party to a Game 7 -- a fate the Capitals face as they look to avoid a major first-round upset by the Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center Wednesday night.
"There were so many different things going on," Walker said at the team's practice facility Wednesday morning. "Game 7 didn't really matter much to me last year. It did in a sense, but it really didn't."
Walker, who is expected to be inserted into the lineup, was part of a Carolina Hurricanes club that had taken the Boston Bruins the distance in the second round last season. Immediately before Game 7, Walker learned that his wife, Julie, had been diagnosed with cervical cancer.
"It was impossible to think," said Walker, who was acquired at the trading deadline from Carolina. "I remember to this day getting into my skates or sitting on the bench thinking, 'What am I going to do? Is she alright?' It was crazy stuff. You were in the game and sometimes you felt like you were sitting outside the game."
The cancer was caught at an early stage and Julie is now in remission.
"It's different now," Walker said. "Now, I'm excited to be around it and having fun. I have a positive feeling about winning, but I also feel positive about life in general. Everybody's health is great."
Despite his mind being elsewhere at times, Walker, 36, did score the game-winning goal against the Bruins to advance the 'Canes to the Eastern Conference Finals. It was his first and, so far, only playoff marker in his 15-season NHL career.
His presence, especially in front of Canadiens' net, would be a welcome addition for a team that has thrown a ton of shots at goalie Jaroslav Halak to almost no effect as the Caps dropped the last two games.
"I think it's great to have a guy like that in the lineup," said rookie defenseman John Carlson. "He's a veteran guy who's been around and he knows [what to expect]. I look forward to him being in the lineup tonight."
This will be Walker's third Game 7, all coming over the last two seasons. Carlson and likely partner, rookie Karl Alzner, will be playing in their first. Alzner was recalled from the Caps' AHL affiliate in Hershey, Pa., on Tuesday to replace Tom Poti, who is out indefinitely with a broken orbital bone suffered in Game 6.
"We talked about a lot of times in Hershey how it would be nice to play together [in the same pairing in the NHL]," Alzner said. "The things we do in Hershey are sometimes what other D pairings won't do. We use each other quite a bit. It would be nice if we could do it here."
"He's been involved in an awful lot of big games in his young life already," Boudreau said. "I think he wants to be in that position. He wants to prove he's an everyday NHL player."
While Walker and Alzner appear set to skate tonight, it doesn't look like Jose Theodore will get the start in net for the Capitals. Boudreau didn't say which way he was leaning, but Theodore stayed on the ice longer than rookie Semyon Varlamov. The starting goalie usually takes a shorter practice than the backup.