Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Another Caps Season Has Come and Gone...A Morning After Thought

And so we’ve come to the end of the road. Another year ending to early, another year ending in heartbreak.  The Caps were amazing this year and the resiliency last night gave us all hope of what could be.  Unfortunately we’ve all seen this movie play out repeatedly, instead of Bill Murray though, it’s Alex Ovechkin. It’s not even funny anymore, like Adam Sandler movies….just punch me in the groin and get it over with right?

The Caps deserved better than the outcome they got.  Due to the NHL shitting the bed with their playoff format the Caps, the top seed in all of hockey had to try and beat the #2 seed in the East (4th best overall) to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals….NOT the Stanley Cup Finals BUT the EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS!!!! Luckily for the NHL Tampa only had to play the 15th and then 10th best overall teams to make the ECF…because yeah that makes a whole lot of fucking sense. Then again it works out perfect for the NHL, the Caps had struggled versus the Penguins all season and now they should have it pretty going up against Tampa Bay and Sir Sidney of Dingleberryville should be able to bring in those precious ratings in Canada that the NHL lacked all post-season since NO Canadian teams qualified for the playoffs this year.

The Caps struggled against a hot team in Pittsburgh. They didn’t always play 60 minutes, which we were accustomed to, based on how much they’d fall behind early for the past 3 months. They didn’t always make the adjustments they needed to. Sure they said the right things, we need to play better, smarter, blah blah blah, we need to shoot high on the rookie goalie Murray, and then they’d come out and get penalized, try to be fancy, turn the puck over, make ill-advised passes and shoot the puck directly at Murray’s mid-section or legs…I mean I know he’s 6’ 5 but that’s not high enough fellas. A few calls or missed calls here or there that changed games, questionable suspensions by the NHL changed games, some of the most ridiculous bounces or own goals (something else Caps fans are accustomed to this time of year) that didn’t go the Caps way changed outcomes and all of a sudden they were down 3 games to 1. Fans tried to remain optimistic, these were the Comeback Caps, this was arguably the greatest team the Caps have ever put on ice. Then Game 6 happened.

Like many, I pretty much wrote the team off when they were down 3-0 knowing they were capable of coming back but fearing they were too far gone. Alzner was hurt, the team was slow and sloppy, Brooks Oprik was Brooks Orpik, and the Caps just seemed to not be showing ANY type of fight whatsoever.  Then they came alive, in large part to some mental breakdowns by the Penguins/semi-stupid rules for Delay of Game. As a Caps fan I’ll take it, we’ve been neutered over the years from the wretched DOG penalties so it was nice to have that happen in our favor for once.

So the team, down 3-0 didn’t quit, just like they hadn’t all year long. They fought back, tied the game and gave fans hope but we all knew the ending. Going into the final 5 minutes when they should have had momentum…they looked tired. The Pens controlled play, in OT they came out slow and sloppy. With every rush, every chance, every shot, I felt where this is where it ends and it didn’t…until it did.  It’s the same script, different cast and in overtime Bonino scored the game-winner, but not until after an amazing save by the stick of Jay Beagle after Holtby had lost his stick. That was it, the series was over, the all too familiar nut punch and sour stench was back as the teams lined up for handshakes. We had to go back to the reality of DC Sports teams just can’t have good things. Regular season juggernauts see the clock strike midnight in the playoffs and their chariot turns back into a pumpkin.  It’s so bad we can’t even be the bridesmaid or the girl who catches the bouquet at the wedding, no we’re the girl who gets pushed to the floor and stepped on so the stuck up bitch can be next in line.

The Caps also deserved better from its fan base. Too often we take for granted what we have, be it team success or the player(s) on the team.  We expect to be good every year, at least those who have only been fans during the Ovechkin era. The older fans know the struggle the Caps went through before Ovi got here, the late 80s and 90s teams were vastly underrated in my bias opinion, but then we had the dark years after the Caps lost the Stanley Cup Finals to the Detroit Red Wings. Those years sucked bad but you have to go through trials and tribulations before you see the light at the end. 

Now I won’t tell someone how to “be a fan” but it sickens me how many people quit on this team. I get it in the moment you’ll say things out of frustration but this team NEVER QUIT. They didn’t quit on themselves, they didn’t quit on games, they didn’t quit on YOU! Yet so many are “done with this team.” Fine! Goodbye! It hurts, it takes a few years off your life with every loss or every high pressure stressful situation, but this team was fun to watch. This team gave the fans so much to be happy for. This team didn’t let us down, the NHL did, the expectations did, but not this team. I’m rocking my Caps hat at work today, I’m proud as hell of MY TEAM. Would these “fans” have preferred they not make the playoffs? This would hurt worse had it been a sweep, had it been a blowout, had it been a Game 7 at home and to meet it would hurt worse had they not made the playoffs. So feel free to give up on this team, we’ll find newer fans who will learn to love the game.

Personally I hate that it happened against Pittsburgh. I hate that it happened versus Crosby. I hate that we didn’t make it out of the 2nd round. I’m glad we didn’t lose to Philadelphia in the 1st round. I hate that once again we fell short and won’t have the Stanley Cup in DC.  I hate that we’re going to hear “Trade Ovechkin” or Ovi doesn’t come to play in big moments or that Sid the Shithead is better than Ovi because he’s had more success with hit TEAM.  FACT: Alex Ovechkin showed up to play this series with his scoring and play. FACT: Sidney Crosby scored as many points in the series vs the Capitals as Ovechkin did in 3 different games vs the Pens.  But let’s not let facts get in the way of a rivalry that really doesn’t exist anymore. Both guys are great players, both future Hall of Famers but the rivalry is between the teams. Ovi has outplayed Sid just about every time and when he hasn’t Sid has matched production. One player does not a team make however. I love that we won’t have to listen to the bias announcing of NBC sports any longer against the Capitals.

The offseason will probably bring a few changes but doubtful many. MoJo is prime trade bait due to expected raise but would suck to see him go. Chimera is a leader for sure but his age will be the reason he’s not back unless it’s on the cheap. Tom Wilson will be resigned for probably two years. Mike Richards I think could be back on the veteran minimum again but he played well enough and is now past the drug charges to where he’ll have other teams willing to offer him more. Latta will probably resign also for two years. I think Oshie gets an extension, the Caps would be wise to lock him up long-term if they have cap flexibility, Galiev may get another shot next year. Orlov I could see resigning for 3 years but I could see them moving him based on some of the breakdowns he had late in the season. Weber is gone thanks God. Winnik will get his chance for a full season with the team next year, though I’d still rather have Brooksie, and outside of a splash in free agency, at some point the Caps will have to look at Madison Bowey and Riley Barber though each is probably a year or two away.  I’ll always believe that, despite his size, Chris Bourque is more than just a great AHL player and would love to see him get ice time with the Caps…he’s small but he’s pesky and does grunt work. Under no circumstances do I see reason or value in trading Ovechkin, Backstrom, Alzner, Carlson or Kuznetsov.

For now, it’s time to rest, unwind from the season and stress over the Nats.  I’ll still watch the playoffs as a fan. All but the Lightning have former Caps still on their teams (Preds – Kuzy and Riberio (bleh), Penguins – Fehr, Sharks – Ward, Stars – Eakin, Blues – Brouwer).  I’m fine with Nashville, San Jose or St. Louis hoisting this year.

Until next season (there’s an all too familiar saying)….

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