On Monday night, my Washington Capitals defeated the New York Islanders in a game seven, putting an end (temporarily) to the curse that has seemed to plague D.C. hockey the last decade. This is bitter sweet, because as nice as it was to win a series for the first time since 2012, the Capitals haven’t made it past the second round in the Ovechkin-era (2005 – present). In 2012, we defeated the Bruins in seven games, and then lost to the New York Rangers in another seven game series. The following year, we were eliminated in seven games, again, by the New York Rangers. Last year, we didn’t even qualify for the post season and the New York Rangers played their way to the Stanley Cup. So, after fighting through a seven game series against a New York team, the Washington Capitals find themselves going on to the second round to face, who else, but the New York f***ing Rangers.
Not only the New York f***ing Rangers, but the best team in Hockey of 2015, winners of the President’s Trophy, f***ing Rangers.
Before I say anything else, this series is going seven games, if only because at this point it’s become a tradition. We’ll steal one at Madison Square Garden, they’ll take one right back at the Verizon Center, setting up a final showdown in Manhattan in which the Capitals will surrender three first period goals, score two to make it close, and ultimately fall 4-2.
I’d say it was hard for me to type all of that, but it wasn’t. As a D.C. sports fan, you learn to appreciate the little wins that you can get.
The Capitals and Rangers playoff rivalry isn’t what it should be. In the last seven years, the Capitals have faced the Rangers in the postseason four times. The record in those four series is split 2-2. Yet, I don’t feel the same wrath for New York that I do, say, the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Boston Bruins. If I have a bad taste in my mouth after talking about the Rangers, it’s only because one of my best friends is from Queens, and with the current state of the Knicks, the Rangers are all he has right now, and I want him to lose everything… sports wise.
This series carries weight for me the way the Spurs series carries weight for Clipper fans. Like Chris Paul, Alex Ovechkin is arguably the best at his position, at least offensively, and like Chris Paul, Alex Ovechkin has never made it to the conference finals.
Unlike Chris Paul, however, Ovechkin has already won three Hart (MVP) trophies. He’s won five Rocket trophies (most goals in a season), including three consecutive, and has a really solid case for a fourth Hart trophy this year, thanks to the work and leadership of head coach Barry Trotz. This is the best Capitals team Ovechkin has had around him in his ten year career, and this may be his best shot of not only moving on, but perhaps winning a Stanley Cup. We as Capital fans can feel it. All the pieces are there, now it’s just a matter of putting the puzzle together. Backstrom. Green, Ward, KUUZZZZYYYYY, and of course, Holtby, depending on which version we get. It could happen.
Maybe this will be the series where the rivalry finally comes to fruition. As proven in the first round, the Capitals aren’t the high-scoring, finesse team that they were of years past, one that would disregard defense for the sake of cheating on offense; but instead are a methodical, brute of a squad that will rough you into mistakes. Hell, the Capitals might have won game six of the first round had Ovechkin not been so preoccupied with sending a message that he lost track of the puck, ultimately leaving Holtby to fend for himself in front of the net. That goal proved to be the game-winner, and the series proved to be a mediocre performance by Ovechkin. I wouldn’t count on that mediocrity to continue.
As a fan of my team, I was really rooting for the Penguins to upset the Rangers in the first round. The easier path to the Stanley Cup, the better. But as a fiction writer, and a fan of narrative, this is almost too perfect. This is Ovechkin’s legacy series, this is the Capitals’ legacy series, and it only make sense that we have to get through New York first. It’s going to hurt. My hair is going to fall out. We’ll probably lose in seven.
But that won’t stop me from losing my f***ing mind. So official prediction? CAPITALS IN SEVEN. Let’s go get that cup.