caps complete their annual postseason meltdown

(photo by Greg Fiume)

This is why we can’t have nice things.

It really doesn’t matter which D.C. sports team you root for these days. They all end in heartbreak and disappointment.

Long-time fans of the Washington Capitals know that this franchise has never really done well in the postseason. Whether we’re talking about multiple overtime games or going up three games to one in a series and being unable to finish off an opponent on the ropes, the Caps have historically tortured their fan base on a level that should be punishable by law.

Graybeards like me know playoff letdowns are an annual tradition, and are able to adjust their expectations accordingly. But I still feel for those relatively newer additions to the local hockey-loving community.

Those who have only been here for the “Rock the Red” era of the Capitals clearly had no idea what they’d signed up for. They simply saw dynamic playmakers on the ice and larger than life personalities off of it and decided to give the Caps a try.

Little did they know they had just entered into an abusive relationship.

But really, their first clue should have been that this franchise was located in Washington, D.C. That alone should be enough at this point to make people proceed with caution.

Take, for example, the Nationals.

caps find themselves in a familiar situation

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.

no need to panic after capitals fall to rangers in game 3

Yes, the Washington Capitals lost 4-3 to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden Monday night.

And yes, the Capitals squandered a perfect opportunity to take a commanding three-games-to-none lead in this best of seven series.

But before Caps fans begin to hyperventilate and overreact, let me say this – the Rangers simply aren’t very good.

Look, I’ve been a fan of the Washington Capitals my entire life and am painfully aware of the countless number of playoff collapses and heartache this franchise has doled out over the years.

As a defense mechanism to cope with being a D.C. sports fan, I always keep my guard up. Hoping for the best, while simultaneously preparing for the worst-possible outcome is honestly the only way I know how to root for a team like the Caps.

Whether we’re talking about blowing a three-games-to-one lead against the hated Pittsburgh Penguins one more than one occasion during the 90’s or dragging things out to triple overtime before falling flat, history shows the Capitals are more than capable of self destructing in spectacular fashion.

And yet, for some reason I am remarkably calm at the moment.

these aren’t your same, old capitals

No offense to the current edition of the Washington Capitals, but when it comes to the postseason, the “Rock the Red” era Caps haven’t accomplished anything yet.

Conversely, even though Adam Oates is a first-time coach who has yet to guide a team through a full 82-game season, his system is a proven winner — having helped the New Jersey Devils advance to the Stanley Cup Finals one year ago.

So while Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green are all playoff veterans by this point of their respective careers, things feel different this time around. Under Bruce Boudreau, the Capitals couldn’t be bothered to play defense. During Dale Hunter’s time in charge, Washington could barely generate offense.

Now though, it appears all is right in the universe — as the Capitals play a defensively responsible brand of hockey that directly leads to scoring chances.

Case in point: with the game tied at 1-1 halfway through the contest, defenseman Steve Oleksy gained control of the puck at his own blue line. At the exact moment he lifted his head, forward Marcus Johansson took off for the Rangers’ net.

Oleksy, playing in his first postseason game with the Caps, lofted the puck over all of the the congestion in the neutral zone and dropped it right on the tape on Johansson’s stick. With one quick deke, the speedy Swede was all alone against New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist and buried the puck in the back of the net.

That game-changing goal is what Oates’ system is all about. The Capitals were in position to fend off a New York’s initial attack and before the Rangers even had a chance to try and recover, they were digging the puck out of their own net.

With apologies to Ovechkin’s powerplay goal or Jason Chimera’s insurance tally less than a minute later, Johansson’s breakaway was the defining play of Washington’s 3-1 victory over the Rangers in Game 1.

It also beautifully illustrates why local hockey fans should be encouraged about the future of this franchise.

the waiting is over for the capitals and caps fans

I’m not going to lie — this is quite possibly my favorite time of the year.

Sure, the Washington Capitals have built a reputation as regular season champs who flame out of the postseason in horrific fashion. I get that.

I fully understand that there are a certain number of D.C. sports fans out there who believe it’s only a matter of time before the Caps find a creative new way to break our hearts. And I don’t blame them for entering the postseason with their guard up.

But I can’t help it. Ever since I was a little kid, there was something mesmerizing about the NHL playoffs.

There’s the Stanley Cup, which is way cooler than any other sports trophy. There’s the fact that any postseason game can end up requiring multiple overtimes, which, considering Washington’s history, should be viewed as a negative. And yet, speaking from personal experience as someone who attended the Caps-Pens four overtime game in 1995-96, is absolutely riveting.

And best of all — playoff beards. Seriously, hockey playoffs are the best and it isn’t even close.

can the playoffs start already?

During my post on the 10 reasons why Adam Oates was the perfect hire for the Washington Capitals, I made a reference to the Hall of Famer’s demeanor — specifically in contrast to former Caps coach Bruce Boudreau.

For those who missed it, here’s what I said:

How many times did cameras capture former Caps coach Bruce Boudreau looking as if he was on the verge of an aneurysm? While Gabby was beloved in this town for wearing his heart on his sleeve on a nightly basis, the message eventually wore thin because standing on the bench and blowing a gasket can only work so often. And sure, it was highly amusing watching Boudreau’s obscenity-laced locker room tirades on HBO, but those types of things are a lot less enjoyable when you’re on the receiving end of one of them.

I spent seven and a half years in the U.S. Army and had no problem with a drill sergeant putting me in check, if need be. But not everyone responds to that type of “motivation.”

Well, since the Capitals don’t drop the puck against the New York Rangers until Thursday night, I figured I’d help pass the time by digging up a clip of that highly-amusing locker room tirade.

So, as long as you’re not someone who is easily offended by adult language, then please feel free to take a stroll down memory lane with Boudreau and then we can all cross our fingers and hope that the Caps players can get their ass out of their head.

10 reasons why adam oates was the perfect hire

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Don’t look now, but the Washington Capitals are officially the NHL’s hottest team.

1. Adam Oates is like a good parent.

One of the best pieces of advice I received when I was about to become a first-time parent was to think back to when I was a child and replicate the things my parents did well and improve upon the areas that they weren’t so great in. It’s simple, but it’s been highly effective as I’ve tried to get the hang of this fatherhood thing without causing permanent damage to my son.

During Oates’ first season as a coach, he’s taken the same approach – thinking back to the best coaches he had the privilege of playing for during his career and mimicking what made them excel.

I’ll let this article, written by Katie Carrera of the Washington Post, explain:

Oates said his experience in 2002-03 playing for Anaheim under Mike Babcock, who is now the coach of the Detroit Red Wings, has helped shape his approach. Oates was 40, in the penultimate season of his 19-year playing career and didn’t get off to a great start.

Babcock, in his first year as a head coach, treated Oates with respect, even when he wasn’t happy with the center’s game. That left a lasting impression.

2. Adam Oates can relate to his players.

While he might be a first-time coach, Oates has instant credibility with his locker room because he’s “been there and done that.” For nearly two decades, he was one of the NHL’s elite players and that commands a certain level of respect.

And let’s not forget — when he holds a meeting with his players, Oates is the only Hall of Famer in the room. He’s achieved something that each and every one of them dreamed of when they were growing up and if there’s even a remote possibility that listening to him can help them get one step closer to that ultimate goal, then they’d be foolish not to use him to their advantage.