Welp. Here we go again.
Longtime fans of the Washington Capitals know this feeling. They know that while 87 percent of all NHL teams that take a 2-0 series lead go on to win, the Capitals are just 2-4 in the same situation.
Those same longtime Caps fans probably also know that this franchise is 0-6 when leading a series 2-1 and then dropping Game 4.
Hell, even newer fans of this franchise – the ones who have only been around for the “Rock the Red” era – know by now that nothing is guaranteed in the postseason for this snake bit hockey team except eventual heartbreak and disappointment.
Which is why, with the possible exception of the gentlemen in Washington’s locker room, every single hockey-watching sports fan on the planet is fully expecting the Capitals to fall flat against the New York Rangers at home in Game 7 Monday night.
In football, the Buffalo Bills have a well-earned reputation for losing Super Bowls. In baseball, for more than 100 years, the Chicago Cubs have been known as loveable losers because of their inability to win a World Series.
And in hockey, the Capitals are labeled as “choking dogs” after years and years of jumping out to a quick start in a playoff series and then failing to finish off a vulnerable opponent.
If the Stanley Cup playoffs were played under the same “one and done” format as March Madness or even “best two out of three,” the Capitals wouldn’t be considered hockey’s version of Charlie Brown.
Unfortunately for everyone involved though, that’s simply not the case, so Caps fans must now hold out hope this is finally the year Lucy finally lets Charlie Brown kick that damned football.
If you’ve been a fan of this team for more than 10 minutes, you clearly know the drill by now – hope for the best while you prepare for the worst.
Sure, the pilot sounded calm while politely asking everyone in the cabin to return to their seat as he attempts to navigate the airplane through a bit of turbulence, but Caps fans knew before he even began to speak that the end was near. Might as well brace for impact, right?
Anyone hoping that “this year is different,” had to hate seeing Bruce Boudreau’s Anaheim Ducks fail to advance out of the first round of the playoffs.
The Ducks won two of the first three games against Detroit and then emerged victorious in Game 5 to put the Red Wings on the verge of elimination. But because Boudreau is a former Caps coach who earned a reputation for winning in the regular season and then collapsing in the playoffs, it comes as a surprise to no one that his squad fell short once again in the postseason.
Seriously, would anyone outside of our nation’s capital feel any differently if the same held true with Adam Oates’ Washington Capitals?
Sure, Oates played on the one version of the Caps who actually made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals and this year’s team started off horrifically and needed multiple divisional opponents to suffer catastrophic collapses just to ensure they qualified for the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean anyone is going to give Washington a pass if the Rangers send them packing for the second season in a row.
I don’t mean to take away anything from Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who is without a doubt one of the best in the world at what he does, but it’s impossible for Caps fans to keep track of how many “hot goalies” this franchise has run into in the playoffs.
And let’s be honest, if you had to bet your life on which team would get called for a backbreaking penalty at the worst possible time of a playoff game, there’s zero chance you’d expect that call to go Washington’s way, right?
Oh, and is there any doubt which team is likely to have a two-on-one breakaway thwarted because their players got overly cute and made one too many passes rather than simply shooting the puck and then crashing the net for a possible rebound?
Yeah, this is the emotional baggage that comes with being a Caps fan. But for one reason or another, local hockey fans continue to stick with this team.
We continue to hold out hope that this time is different. We tell ourselves that these players have nothing to do with the failures of guys who donned the red, white and blue two decades ago and therefore, this will finally be the year the cycle is broken.
Of course, 10 minutes into Game 7, when the Capitals are down 1-0 and it appears that every call is going against Washington, Caps fans will all simultaneously ask themselves, “Why do I continue to do this to myself?”
This is where I do my best to put on a smile, tell myself it’s going to be okay and convince you all to step away from the ledge. I mean, 23-year-old Braden Holtby has probably never even heard of Esa Tikkanen.
So stop telling yourself that this franchise is cursed. Forget what happened yesterday and only concern yourself with what’s going on in the present … that is, unless the Caps blow it.