By Nick Jacobs
If there were ever a good ending for the Washington Capitals’ season this year it would be a game seven in a playoffs. Unfortunately for Caps fans, that is how it happened. On Tuesday night, the dream-like season ended in a 3-2 overtime loss against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Coming back from last place in the Eastern Conference early this season, the Capitals played their way into the playoffs by winning seven straight to end the season and clinching the division title.
After upsetting the Philadelphia Flyers in game one, the Capitals lost three straight to go down three games to one in the playoff series. The Capitals found themselves with a chance to make history.
They say “almost” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but this “almost” win, which is sure to be talked about until the playoffs next season, meant the Capitals did not lose in vain. The team made history this season and ten sell-out crowds at Verizon Center were there to see them through it.
During the first game against Philadelphia, National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman told Comcast Sports Network that one of the main reasons he was so excited for Washington to be in the playoffs was because probable NHL MVP Alexander Ovechkin and his energetic teammates were going to bring thousands of new fans into the sport of hockey.
He was right.
The Capitals drew out screaming crowds drenched in red as headlines ran across the front page of local newspapers, even after off-days. Washington was constantly profiled on ESPN and was one of the most talked about teams in the playoffs
In a region where, come April the last thing on anyone’s mind is winter, thousands were willing to sacrifice their warm spring nights to huddle around a sheet of ice.
Even the political pundits on the Sunday morning news shows had to have their say. Tim Russert of Meet the Press and Chris Wallace of FOX News cheered on their home team on national television.
Most of Washington’s newly acquired fans hardly know the rules or the strategies of the game. However, they know when to yell when Mike Green crushes another man into the boards and how to celebrate with Ovechkin after he makes the highlight reel night after night.
While diehard fans will have to wait until next October to see the Capitals back on ice, it is for certain that they will not be alone. And joining those fans will be four lines of the NHL’s best. Late-season acquisitions Sergui Fedorov, Matt Cooke, and all-star goalie Cristobal Huet are sure to stay the team.
The three pick-ups were instrumental to the Capitals success closing the regular season. Former Detroit All-Star Fedorov gave some much-needed experience to a very young bench and Huet’s amazing performance in between the pipes benched the longest tenured player in Washington sports, Olie Kolzig.
Many new fans will remember this season as one where the Caps rocked the southeast division and had the series taken away from them by a couple of awful referees.
Unfortunately, journalistic objectivity means nothing on a night when a terrible call gave Philadelphia a goal.
However, for now, the jerseys are thrown into the closet and the ice is slowly melting. It is time to put this great team in the books and remember that they will be ready to play again soon.
Thank Washington for resigning him because the “Great Eight,” Ovechkin, has 13 more years here; they will have to get a Stanley Cup by 2021.