As we celebrate the Capitals' 40th anniversary, let's take a moment to...
George and Ted’s Excellent Weekend Adventure
Way back in February, during a 5-2 pummeling by the Ottawa Senators to cap off a spectacular 1-3 road trip (where they were outscored 13-4), I finally had enough of this season. I grabbed my wife, jumped in the car, and just drove.
I was sure they were done. Totally sure there were going to be no playoffs this year. The team wasn’t just in a funk – they were just no good. They lacked speed and skill, and at some point they were going to trade the Captain because the public would start demanding it. I woke up the next morning and looked at the standings. 10th place, behind Toronto and Winnipeg.
After last Tuesday’s loss to Buffalo, I was feeling the same way, except I was more resigned to it by now. The Caps had lost control of their destiny. Surely Buffalo wouldn’t completely fall on its sword, and Florida was playing two terrible teams in Minnesota and Columbus.
What a difference four days can make.
What’s interesting about this year’s Capitals is not that they’re resilient (I’ve seen them blow “must-win” games against Winnipeg and Buffalo most recently), it’s that all the teams chasing them are even less resilient. Also-rans like Tampa Bay and Toronto made brief runs before falling apart. Winnipeg was right there after beating the Caps, but died quietly against Nashville the very next night, because they can’t win on the road in any place that isn’t DC. And now you have the Sabres, who were riding high after a huge victory over the Caps one moment and then losing a winnable game against Pittsburgh at home. Cap it off by inexplicably losing in horrendous fashion to the Leafs this past Saturday night. The whole sequence has managed to put the Caps back in complete control of their own destiny. Florida took one point out of a back-to-back with two of the three worst teams in the entire Western Conference.
While it’s true that the Caps this year have made a habit of taking one step forward and then two steps back, the teams chasing them have taken one step forward and three steps back, and that’s all the difference. They’ve blown big games, yes, but they haven’t blown the little games against the Minnesotas and Montreals of the world, although they certainly tried against the latter.
In the end, it looks like the Caps are going to be the team that is better at not failing than everyone else. For this franchise, which has been on the other end of that spectrum for so long, it might be a sign of something big to come.
I’m starting to come around to this funny idea of “hope” again. I hope they let it stick around for a while this time before they dash it.