No one knows the agony of games seven like fans of the Washington Capitals. The Caps, we’ve been told, are a team uniquely terrible at playing Big Games, which are bigger than small games, which don’t even get uppercase letters. Washington, led– perhaps only nominally– by Alex Ovechkin, are choking dogs. Or maybe they’re cursed. Basically, they’re cursed, choking dogs who are also lazy and don’t care about team accomplishments and they’re probably all going to go to Russia soon anyw—
The past is not always prologue. Sometimes the past is just trivia. Maybe it’s just painful trivia that provides writers a convenient angle from which to cover hockey, but it’s still trivia.
Tonight is game seven, gay sev to us in the know. It’s not the culmination of a franchise or some grand denouement for a city that needs a winner. It’s just an hour of hockey with one winner and one loser, an hour of hockey to determine if this is the end or not. That’s all.
Alex Ovechkin has never made it past the second round of the playoffs. It’s a trite fact, but unavoidable. He’s been in the NHL since 2005, with his window as a primary goal-scorer closing. In 10 years, he has yet to win a Stanley Cup. Some core players around him, like Mike Green, are likely to leave this summer or within the next few years. This may be Ovechkin’s best chance to win a Cup as the undisputed leader of the Washington Capitals. Ovechkin seems to know that. In this year’s Division Final against the Rangers, DC’s captain has put on an astonishing display of talent and dedication, nearly winning games for the Capitals off his play alone. On Saturday, he came up short, but it was another immortal individual performance.
“He’s a force,” coach Barry Trotz said. “No question.”
Midway through the third period, Washington was down 3-1, having just given up a crushing goal to Rangers forward Derick Brassard. Just 90 seconds before Rangers fans were to begin their eight-minute mark “Ovi Sucks! Ovi Sucks! Ovi Sucks!” onslaught, Ovechkin bumbled down the ice with three Rangers on him. He knifed straight through Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, New York’s top defenders, as the two hopelessly whacked at Ovi. Falling to his knees, he let off a perfectly placed wrist shot that went top shelf on Henrik Lundqvist. It was a goal that was nearly impossible to imagine another player in the NHL scoring. It was utter brilliance, under immense pressure, on a huge stage. Save for the cheers of Capitals players, MSG fell silent.
It’s possible that tonight will be the final Capitals game at Verizon Center this season. If the Caps lose tonight and on Saturday, that’s it for the year. That’s a bit of a downer note to start on, but I want the stakes to be clear: the family name is on the line.
So, Caps fans, do your thing. Judging by history, it’s going to be a big night.
Winning the Stanley Cup is incredibly difficult. After a grueling, 82-game regular season, the top 16 teams then compete in a small sample-size lottery face off with the intensity ratcheted up approximately one hundred notches. The first team to 16 wins bring home The Cup.
The fact is– even the teams thought to be favorites to win it all have the deck stacked against them. A few bad bounces here, a couple bad calls there, and it’s easy to see why “the field” is the best pick of all over any one team when picking a Cup winner.
We’ve already discussed why the Caps won’t be having a parade in June, and we looked at what needs to go right for them to have a realistic shot at riding down F Street on a float. Now here’s the one or two glaring weakness that will prevent every playoff team from winning the Stanley Cup.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin tonight, so that means Ian and I have to do our usual, horrifyingly inaccurate predictions for the first round.
Below you’ll see the hottest of our hot takes and the most upsetting upset picks you’ll ever see, but we’re also bringing in an x-factor, who might defeat us both in predicting the outcome of this season’s race of the Stanley Cup.
Tom Wilson draws (and takes) a lot of penalties. (Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Throughout the season, the Washington Capitals have generated a lot of offense during four-on-four play. With Tom Wilson, who leads the Caps in penalties taken and drawn per 60 minutes of ice time, expected to return to the line-up, it’s not farfetched to think we may see some coincidental penalties doled in the first round series against the Islanders.
While four-on-four play only accounted for 178.5 of the 5002 minutes of the time Caps spent on the ice during the regular season, the Caps scored 13 goals (good for second in the league and among playoff teams) in those situations, meaning they scored at a rate roughly 57 percent higher than in all situations and almost twice as high as during the five-on-five play.
Photo courtesy of Monumental Network/Amanda Maglione
I was reading the PuckBuddys’ coverage of Alex Ovechkin’s Ride of Fame thing the other day. To celebrate Ovi’s success, this “mobile monument” tour created a custom bus emblazoned with his face, cruising around the Penn Quarter. It was a nice moment for a special player– and it seemed to me a complete reversal from where we were one year ago.
In early April of 2014, the only bus I was concerned about was the metaphorical one the team’s coach kept parking on his players.
Here and now, at the setting of a successful season and the dawn of the playoffs, I’m struck by the transformation this team has made in the last year. You’ve come a long way, baby.