An Observation Concerning… My Annual Washington Capitals Post-Playoff Post

“Just when you think you’re in control, just when you think you’ve got a hold, just when you get on a roll, oh, here it goes, here it goes, here it goes again.”
-OK Go, “Here It Goes Again”

There was a nice break from disappointment in last year’s championship post, but old habits die hard for the Washington Capitals. As a fan, another early exit stings, however, I’m not about to claim it hurts less because they won the Stanley Cup last year. In fact, this one will linger a little longer due to wasted opportunities, a sense of urgency for the dwindling hopes of a dynasty, and the eerie fall into familiarity.

Okay, the Pittsburgh Penguins getting swept helps a little, but it was by a Barry Trotz-led New York Islanders squad that was supposed to be garbage this year.

And the stinging returns once more.

Does experience actually matter or have the Caps reverted back to underachieving heartbreak? The team was essentially the same group that won the coveted cup last year, so one would assume that they would be able to hold a 2-0 series advantage against arguably the 16th best team in the playoffs: a Carolina Hurricanes team they swept 4-0 in the regular season. Or they would at the very least be able to hold a two goal lead at home in a game seven that shouldn’t have been happening to begin with. Fans and analysts can claim that T.J. Oshie’s game four injury played a vital part in losing four out of their last five games, and Michel Kempny’s exit before the playoffs even started doomed the squad from making another deep run, but those are just excuses. The Hurricanes had injuries as well, and even more players have been added to the list in their second-round series against the Islanders—a series they lead 3-0 at the moment.

So are the Hurricanes that good? No. Sebastian Aho is pretty decent, but he can barely be considered a top-50 talent. So are they young? Sure, but that’s not an excuse either because their youngest star, 19-year-old Andrei Svechnikov, was knocked out early in game three against the Caps courtesy of a few powerful rights by Alexander Ovechkin, and just returned to the lineup last night.  The two players who really stabbed a dagger in the hearts of the Caps organization and fan base were Jordan Stall and Justin Williams, 30 and 37 respectively.

What’s the secret to the Hurricanes’ success then? It has to be momentum, and this is why the Stanley Cup playoffs are great, but also devastating at the same time. This has been a wild (no pun intended) year so far; all four wild card teams moved on to the second round, and only three higher seeds won their first-round series, and two of them had to clinch in game sevens, including a miraculous comeback by the San Jose Sharks over the Vegas Golden Knights. Out of the four wild card teams, the Hurricanes are the one team that can’t truly validate their magic.

Everyone is aware of how great the Tampa Bay Lightning played this season (and everyone is still aware of the President’s Trophy curse). Maybe it’s shocking the Columbus Blue Jackets swept the Lightning in the first round, but I didn’t find it surprising that they won the series. They have a superstar in Artemi Panarin, one of the league’s best young defensemen in Seth Jones, and all the acquisitions they made at the trade deadline were bound to pay off. In fact, they may be the favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference at the moment, leading their series against the Boston Bruins, 2-1. The Colorado Avalanche and the Dallas Stars both have perennial superstars as well: Nathan MacKinnon, Jaime Benn, and Tyler Seguin to name a few. The Avalanche have a top-ten offense, tallying 260 regular season goals, and the Stars allowed the fewest goals in the league (202) due to a stout defense and Vezina Trophy-finalist Ben Bishop.

With this being said, the Caps failed to take advantage of said wild situation. With most of the top competition ousted, including the pesky Penguins, they had a grand opportunity at being able to chant “back to back” as Oshie preached during last’s year celebration.

Perhaps they were a tad too lax throughout the series, perhaps they’ve adopted this young societal mindset of full entitlement expected after little to no accomplishment, but there needs to be some urgency if the organization wants to take advantage of a window that has been closing for over half a decade now.

Isabelle Khurshudyan, Washington Post- Capitals prepare for offseason focused on the roster’s fringes rather than its core

The core isn’t that young and it showed in both overtimes of game seven against the Hurricanes as stamina was an issue. Nine players are set to become restricted or unrestricted free agents, and 2020 is a pivotal year for stars Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby to receive new contracts, not to mention Ovechkin’s contract is up in 2021. If the Caps are to extend their title window, they need to start acting like 2018 wasn’t some fluke.

David Hookstead, The Daily Caller- TV ratings for the NBA playoffs down 19%, NHL playoffs up 1%

Every Stanley Cup playoff game is a battle; it’s not like the predictable NBA playoffs which can be guessed after the ball is tipped at the start of the season. The parity and intensity of the NHL playoffs are on full display this year, leaving Caps fans saying, “Here it goes again.” Winning a championship doesn’t automatically change everything.

Good luck to the Hurricanes because they’re going to need it; next year they will revert back to their normal as well. Unfortunately for the Caps, the Blue Jackets will be way better, the Islanders should improve as well, and the Penguins will still be around—and that’s just in their division. The Montreal Canadians are on the rise, the Toronto Maple Leafs are a force, The Boston Bruins somehow continue to not get worse, and you don’t think the Lightning are really really pissed off right now—again?

Shout out to the Buffalo Sabres as well. They’re about due. Like, seriously, Buffalo.

Let’s not even get into how good the Western Conference will be.

The window is closing again, don’t let it shut.

An Observation Concerning… The Washington Capitals Winning the Stanley Cup. Wait, Really?

“Not a trace of doubt in my mind.”
-The Monkees, “I’m a Believer”

Yes, really. Don’t worry about that unseasonable chill outside either; it might just be the cold rising from the caverns of Hell.

Eesh, I thought this was supposed to be a happy post. It is! So it has been a few days now, but I still haven’t caught my breath—I still can’t believe that the Washington Capitals have won the Stanley Cup.

This is the type of moment that will stand still in time for fans of the franchise—and I’m sure NHL.com’s shop profits have proven that thus far. I know I’ve contributed to keeping some of their employees employed over the course of the weekend.

If you’ve read my posts consistently, and I know there are very few according to my stats, you can pick up a few things here and there about my life. I keep my internet presence fairly simple and my personal life separate, but here are two freebies if you didn’t know this already: I’m a huge Washington Capitals fan and I’m not 44-years-old, but am within a decade.

Why is that important? Well it explains some ailments and losing a step and some hair, but that’s not the reason nor is it a cry for sympathy, just a reminder I need to accept the aging process. Okay, we’re getting off track here… the mind seems to wander, you know. The reason 44 years is important is because this is the first time in that period that the Washington Capitals have won a Stanley Cup. Think about that; people were born and have already started their midlife crisis during that span.

Now, I think we’re well aware that hockey is the fourth most popular of the four major sports in this country—and that’s only because it’s considered one of the four major sports. If NASCAR was in that category then hockey may not even be recognized by many. However, if you watch the NHL you realize that every player on every team works harder than most other athletes (I’m definitely not saying that other athletes don’t work hard, so let’s not let sensitivity kick in and concentrate on a minuscule statement while losing focus on every other sentence in this entire post). In hockey there isn’t a pitching staff in which each member throws a few innings every few games, there isn’t a rest for the defense while the offense is on the field and vice versa, and there isn’t more than half the team sitting on the bench in their warm-ups as a handful of superstars spend a majority of the time on the court. In other words, it’s the epitome of what a team represents and how hard work by each individual is the only way a moment can bring so much boyish joy to grown men.

Quick team note: I called Billy Baldwin a prick on social media because he didn’t even wait a day to preach his political agenda after the Caps won the cup. People waited 44 years for this, and he ruined it in less than a day just to try and get some chuckles from all his followers who accidently thought he was Alec. With that being said, politics needs to stay out of it, and Devante Smith-Pelly, please be the bigger man here and attend the White House ceremony. Be there for your team, for your city, for the hundreds of thousands of good and average people who just want to enjoy their interests without a social asterisk for once. You’ve earned this and the fans love you just as much as they love every player on the team. That certainly trumps (wow, what a poor word choice) the opinion of one person who you disagree with.

Moving on.

No disrespect to other sports; I enjoy every league and obsess and stress over my loyalties equally, and that’s why this championship run means so much. I went out to DC for Game 3, and though I wasn’t able to get into the stadium, the excitement that spread over the city was an extraordinary moment to experience, and the spontaneity was worth every cent. People in the District were actually friendly with each other, they strode down the streets with smiles and glee, saying hello, shaking hands and high-fiving others, shouting their support for a team destined to change the entire outlook of great city starved for success. It had been since 1992 that a Washington franchise won a championship in their respective league—sorry, DC United, people still don’t take the MLS seriously I guess, but I see you and your four titles!

I know a Caps fan who cried for 30 minutes after the team lifted the cup and I’m sure there were thousands more and for longer stints; people said most others in DC weren’t at work on Friday because the celebration went through the night, and you know what, it was a free pass; and even congress could agree on one thing while “working” late hours: The Capitals.

For everyone who believes sports are merely recreational and lack deep meaning, watch the footage of the 6-block radius that was dedicated to fans on foot around Capital One Arena, watch the reactions of desperate individuals finally reveling in a moment that has plagued a community for 44 years, and think about the last time that many people gathered together with the same thing on everyone’s mind. You have to remember that a sporting event is the one thing—with maybe the exception of a concert—where a massive amount of people come together and share a common interest no matter their sex, race, age, political or religious affiliation, or whatever difference a person has with another. Tell me that’s not meaningful.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights had a wonderful season and did so much for the city of Las Vegas, especially following one of the most tragic events in this country’s history—again, tell me sports aren’t meaningful. What those players did for the community was amazing, and on a lighter note, after those fantastic pre-game productions, I’m sold that major professional sports in Las Vegas is a great thing.

The Caps worked harder than I’ve ever seen them this season, and Alexander Ovechkin has worked as hard as any player in any sport I’ve ever seen over his last 13 seasons—I mean he had to if he eats a chick-parm before games still for being in his thirties. Seriously, I can’t even have a turkey sandwich before I exercise without becoming bloated and sluggish, and I bet nutritionists and personal trainers hate him because he’s bad for their business.

TRAINER: You need to go on a diet.
CLIENT: I’m good. Ovi eats chick-parms before a game so I did before my workout, and I will after, and probably have one for dinner as well. That’ll make me three times in shape than he is!
TRAINER: He’s playing professional hockey and you’re doing a couple lunges and hitting the elliptical for 15 minutes.
CLIENT: Exactly! It’s like we’re twins!
TRAINER (whispering to self): With a huge weight and overall health discrepancy. CLIENT: What was that?
TRAINER: You’re doing great! Only four more lunges! You can do this!

The Washington Capitals deserved this championship. The players deserved it, the organization deserved it, and the fans deserved it. Cherish it forever, Caps fans, and always rock the red!

Now they just have to go and do it again. How hard is that?

An Observation Concerning… The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals.

“There’s no compromise, No second prize.”
-Airbourne, “Rivalry”

I was born in Washington, DC and have devotedly supported the area’s professional sports franchises for the last few decades. I do lean more toward the Orioles because the Nationals weren’t around when I was born, and they just can’t enter my life like some arrogant stepfather. It’s a relationship that has taken time, but I already have a dad (I mean, team) in my life.

As a Capitals’ fan, I would like to congratulate the Pittsburgh Penguins.

With that being said, I don’t believe a Penguins’ fan would offer such a gesture if the Capitals were to ever win the Stanley Cup. I know a handful of Penguins fans – sadly, I’ve been to Pittsburgh more times than they have combined – and they just aren’t that type of person. There’s nothing wrong with that; it just makes it easier not to like the team or players.

Imaginary Penguins’ Fan: You’re just saying that because they’re rivals.
Me: Perhaps, but why?
Imaginary Penguins’ Fan: You’re just jealous.
Me: I’m asking you why we’re rivals?
Imaginary Penguins’ Fan: Because we’re bad ass and you suck!
Me: Why won’t you actually answer the question?
Imaginary Penguins’ Fan: Woo! Go Penguins!

I’m coming to grips with the fact that it’s actually not a rivalry. A rivalry usually includes two teams or individuals that are evenly matched and equally decorated like the Celtics-Lakers in the 80’s or Federer-Nadal in the 21st Century. The Pittsburgh-Washington rivalry is completely one-sided and predictable. It’s similar to Ohio State and Michigan; a rivalry that has completely lost its luster because since 2001 the Wolverines have only one twice. Of course, they have a more storied history, but my point is that rivalries can become very bland and uninteresting.

Imaginary Penguins’ Fan: You’re just jealous.
Me: You already said that.
Imaginary Penguins’ Fan: Fine, you’re bitter.
Me: That’s the same thing.
Imaginary Penguins’ Fan: Woo! Go Penguins!
Me: Hmm…

I am bitter, I will admit it. However, Pittsburgh fans can’t say anything about it because they don’t know what it’s like. They’re spoiled brats when it comes to sports. Not in like an inherited classy New York way, or rags to riches Boston way, but more like a trailer trash wins the lottery kind of way (it’s a joke, not a stereotype, calm down, everybody). Let’s look at the Pittsburgh-Washington rivalry if it were between the two cities as a whole:

Super Bowls: Pittsburgh 6, Washington 3.
Stanley Cups: Pittsburgh 5, Washington 0.
World Series: Pittsburgh 5, Washington 0.
NBA Championships: Washington 1, Pittsburgh 0 (because they don’t have a basketball team).

16-4 overall. How pathetic. Rivalries aren’t supposed to be pathetic; they are supposed to move us, keep us enthralled, make us anxious, and make supporters from other teams tune into the matchup just because it’s an amazing unpredictable game. The Penguins-Capitals has become hardly that.

I always thought the window was closing for the Capitals the last few years, but I believe it’s now shut. The hope of just a shred of glory has drifted away; especially with the emergence of the Blue Jackets, Maple Leafs, and Sabres (you’ll see) in the East and the Predators and Oilers in the West. Las Vegas has once again given Washington high odds to win the Cup in 2018. Sadly, I wouldn’t take that bet. In my disgruntled eyes, the Golden Knights have just as good of a chance.

I will always support you, Capitals, but when the hell are you going to return the favor to the fan base? Forget about Pittsburgh and just rock the red.