For the Caps, It Shouldn’t Hurt So Bad, But It Does

Posted May 13, 2022

T.J. Oshie was the MVP for the Caps in this series. (Caps Outsider)

Generally speaking, when any eighth-seeded team makes the Presidents’ Trophy winners sweat, it’s a moral victory of sorts, but not for the 2021-22 Washington Capitals. The Caps, who had underachieved in the standings this season due to injuries and no real pressure down the stretch, had the Panthers beat three games in a row, but couldn’t keep them beat. Instead, they fell in the series 4-2, where a killer instinct – one that that Panthers clearly possess – would’ve had them win the series 4-1.

A one-goal lead in the last few minutes, a 3-0 lead in the second period, and a one-goal third-period lead, and later, momentum with a late-game tying goal at home is statistically enough to win each time, but Florida had other plans, dashing the hopes of the Capitals and their fans in what has become all-too familiar, and even predictable.

Except, 2018 interrupted that script. Even that season, the Caps had every reason to fall in at least two series in the same manner in which they fell to Florida this year, but emerged from the sewers like Andy Dufresne, arms raised in a V.

What’s further infuriating is that the Caps haven’t even won a series since hoisting the Stanley Cup, which is almost unfathomable considering the raw talent this team possesses. While teams like Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay have all won multiple Stanley Cups in the Rock the Red era, the Caps have exited the second round successfully… once.

It’s also hard to imagine anything better on the horizon. Next year, each of the Caps’ stars will be a year older, while plenty of other teams in the NHL are younger, faster, and simply better. I both look forward to, but also fear, that the next four seasons in Washington will merely be the Alex Ovechkin show, as we chisel hash marks on the wall for each goal he scores as he chases Wayne Gretzky on the all-time goal list. Beyond that, what’s realistic to expect from this team? A first-round win?

Things could be worse, though, but we’ve taken for granted that merely making the playoffs year-after-year isn’t something that every city can look forward to. Perhaps the regular season wins, the Ovi goals, and the lead-up to the playoffs will just need to remain our best-of-times in the coming years.

And who knows? Maybe they’ll surprise us again.

Go Caps.