Caps exercise Penguin demons

Sports and Bets — May 8, 2018 at 1:17 pm by

I have been a Caps fans for as long as I can remember.  Other than one magical run in 1998, every season ended in the same way, either no playoffs or an early playoff exit.  Then they drafted what would become one of the best players in the history of the National Hockey League, Alex Ovechkin.  Things got better, the Capitals became one of the better and most consistent teams in the league, with one caveat, the early playoff exits continued.  Including this year the Capitals have qualified for the playoffs 9 of the last 10 seasons, have won 8 division championships & 3 President trophies.  Yet with all that success ZERO trips past the second round of the playoffs…..until last night.

This Caps team has been different from in year’s past.  The success and playoff berth is there but the fanfare was not.  It’s been noted by other publications but this might be the quietest 105 point season in league history.  The Caps did not enter the playoffs as the best team, very few experts had them making a deep run, some even had them losing in the first round.  The postseason didn’t start off very well either.  The Caps, who won 28 of their 41 home games in the regular season, lost two in a row at home to Columbus to find themselves down 2 games to none.  Most, if not all Caps fans, were saying ‘here we go again’, and could you blame us?  The Caps made the change back to Braden Holtby between the pipes for Game 3 and the fortunes began to change.  The Caps won the next four to set up its seemingly yearly clash with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

This postseason was the third in a row that the Caps and Pens have met in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, Game 1 did not go well.  The Caps squandered a 2-0 lead allowing 3 goals in the third period and lost Game 1, 3-2.  Washington rebounded nicely with wins in games 2 & 3 before losing game 4 setting up a best of 3 for a trip to the conference finals.  Game 5 was a 6-3 win for DC with two empty net goals, the Caps once again were just one win away from eliminating the Pens.

Just watching the game at home you could feel that both teams didn’t want to make a mistake.  The Caps all night never made things easy for the Penguins.  Other than a few spurts here and there Pittsburgh never sustained a consistent offensive threat.  Even with overtime the Penguins only had 22 shots on goal.  In the overtime period the Penguins had a great scoring chance when Kuhnhackl rung one off the post.  In previous match ups that goes in for Pittsburgh, not tonight.  Not shortly after that Evgeny Kuznetsov finished a breakaway to end the Penguins season.  FINALLY, after years of suffering the Caps beat their rivals ending their two-year reign as the league’s best team.

In some ways it almost felt like they won the cup.  That’s how much winning that series by beating that team meant.  The look on Ovechkin’s face told the entire story, relief.  This is also a Capitals team that wasn’t at full strength either.  Tom Wilson was serving the final game of his suspension and Nicklas Backstrom missed the game because of an injury.   Nathan Walker became the first Australian to register a point in an NHL playoff game.  This Caps team is just different, they aren’t as reliant on the stars as they have been in the past.  That’s not to say that the stars haven’t performed, Ovechkin has scored 8 goals in 12 games.  Now it’s on to play a very good Tampa Bay team in the Eastern Conference Final.  Now I hate to be that guy so close after the euphoric win, but what does this series win mean without winning the cup?  If the Red Sox would’ve lost the World Series in 2004 would their epic ALCS comeback been as special?  Probably not.  I’m not going to downplay what Monday’s win meant to the Capitals fans or the franchise, it was huge.  However, the Caps can make this series win even sweeter by adding a Stanley Cup Victory to the end of this run.

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