Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Caps Game 7

I got to Verizon Center ten minutes before the game. Outside the arena was bedlam as there were tons of people looking for tickets. I heard that a single seat in the upper area where I was sitting was going for $250. No chance was I parting with my ticket though. Once inside, the place was a sea of red as the above photo from On Frozen Blog shows.

I quickly called home to let Weena know I got there ok and to speak to Benjamin, who yelled in the phone "Let's go Caps!" During the anthem I was anxious, tense and nervous. Like everyone else in the building I just wanted the puck to drop and the game to begin.

It was a classic game and a great series. For the first two periods, the two teams traded goals. Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin for the Caps, Scottie Upshall and Sami Kapanen for the Flyers.

Check out the live blog of game 7 from Dave

The Caps threw everything at the Flyers in the third period. They had sixteen shots on goal but couldn't get that third goal. Like 1988, when the Caps rallied from 1-3 down, this series would be decided in overtime. There's nothing better in sports than a Stanley Cup playoff game seven in overtime.

The record shows that the Flyers Joffrey Lupul scored a power play goal six minutes into overtime, giving the game to the Flyers 3-2 and the series to the Flyers, 4 games to 3. As saddened as I was with the outcome, the future looks bright for the Capitals and they can use this playoff experience as a building block to greater things in the future.

Except for a ten game hiccup late in the year where they didn't register a point in the standings, this Flyers team was among the top teams in the league all season. To take them to overtime in game seven was a remarkable accomplishment considering where the Caps were on 1/1/08, which was last place in their division. I would have liked to have seen them move farther along and gain more playoff experience but as Craig Laughlin, the Caps announcer pointed out, to learn to win you need to experience losing and the Caps learned a hell of a lot this round vs the Flyers.

Coach Bruce Boudreau, who I've had the pleasure of meeting after the practice I attended back in January, told the team afterwards "Thanks for the best year of my life". I'll agree, it really was a lot of fun following this team this year once he took over. Sadly, I heard on the radio while driving home that long time goalie Olie Kolzig removed his nameplate from his locker and left without speaking to reporters. I believe his time here in Washington is done. He's 38 and if he's done here, I hope he retires. I don't want to see him as a back up goalie for the Los Angeles Kings or Minnesota Wild. He's a class act on and off the ice. If this was his last game as a Capital, thank you Olie for the great memories!

Caps Owner Ted Leonsis comments were played on the Caps post game radio show last night. Leonsis stated he's going to let his emotions of the season play out and he and General Manager George McPhee will sit down and address team issues in a month. Signing Cristobal Huet, Matt Cooke and Sergei Federov are top priorities as is adding some defensive depth.

The Caps have the best player in the world playing for them in Alex Ovechkin and will be serious threats next year. I can't wait!


Bill-DC said...

Decided to post Ted Leonsis' final journal entry for USA Today as I wanted this in my archive...

Inside the Owner's Box: One door closes, another opens

Tuesday, April 22 Flyers 3, Capitals 2, OT)

Game 7 is here. I am excited, nervous and sanguine about the night. I am amazed that every single ticket has been sold in less than 24 hours since Game 6. I know there will be a packed house and a sea of red. I am anxious that we play great hockey for our loyal fan base.

I go to the eye doctor at noon — I think I need to boost my contact lens power of magnification a bit — and I get a upgrade in my prescription. The doctor laughs as I leave and says to me, "Send some of the NHL refs my way — I think I can help improve their eyesight." I nervously smile and pray that she isn't prophetic.

We drive down to the arena very early as I have to do many media interviews. My wife and daughter head to Union Station to pick up my son who is coming down from UPenn for the game. I conduct four live interviews on television. I can't remember what I say — I just talk, make some general comments. I feel like I am in a bit of a daze.

All my friends and partners gather in the owner's box for the drop of the puck. There is a real familial feel in here. We are a close knit group — we like, respect and love one another. We are all in this together.

The game is about to start, and it is a complete Red Out — there are perhaps 25 Flyers fans in the arena. This is just a spectacular sight to see — the fans are loud and into it.

The first period starts, and early on we go up 1-0 on another Backstrom goal. This kid is a big-time money player. Before I know it, it is tied up — 1-1.

We then go down 2-1 on a play that will stay with me for a long time — and is emblematic of the series. A Flyers player drives one of our D-men into our goalie. Our goalie goes down and out, and a Flyer shoots the puck into an open net. There is no penalty called. The play can't be reviewed. The fans roar their disapproval. It is a tough "no call" — I understand how hard it is for the refs to make these judgments, but I wish they hadn't gotten so involved with the outcome of the game. I tell my son, "We just have to fight through this." And we do — Alex Ovechkin, big-game player that he is, ties it up. We are deadlocked at 2-2.

The third period is fast-paced — lots of action. We dictate the pace of play. There are no penalties called. And we go to overtime.

I dread this — anything can happen in OT, and it does. A few minutes in, we are whistled for an infraction. It is the right call, but still frustrating because the whistles have been put away. With only 20 seconds left in the power play, the Flyers score.

It is deafening in its silence. It all moves in slow motion. I see their celebration; I see our team's dejection. The players make a line to shake hands. Alex Ovechkin, class act that he is, is hugging the Flyer players and is now leading applause for our fans. A few of our fans throw bottles and cups of beer at the refs out of frustration, which makes me angry and sad at that same time. I look over and my daughter is crying her eyes out.

But then the fans all start to cheer and applaud our team as fans make their way out. They shake my hand, they hug me, they say "Let's Go Caps!" They have hope, and they care. One door has closed, but they like what they see behind it.

The Flyers played their hearts out. We lost two games in OT — it was a great series. Good for the Flyers, bad for us. I wish them luck in the rest of the playoffs. They have a great team and they are a great franchise. But now everyone knows — so do we:-).

We mingle in the owner's box — hugs and handshakes all around, and now I have to go into the locker room. I try to compose myself, and I seek out our coaching staff and players. We exchange hugs, warm handshakes and some small talk. I talk to some of the players, and then I am attacked by the media. I try to make sense of things and hope I represented our fan base and franchise the right way. It is so tough to have cameras and mics thrust in your face at a time like this, but "this is the business that we have chosen."

We all drive home and I listen to the postgame radio show. The fans are all positive and happy. This doesn't feel so much like a loss but as the start of a new era for us. I get online and I am overwhelmed. I have more than 400 e-mails and Facebook messages. Most are supportive of our team and our prospects for future growth. I do my best to read them all and respond.

The fan reaction makes me full of energy. I know we have started a new journey together. This playoff experience was great for us, and I know there will be many more for us in our immediate future. I am renewed and can't wait to get to the office tomorrow to start planning for what we have to do to get better next season. Life goes on — one door closes and another one will open. Go Caps.

Bill-DC said...

Posted this on the Caps message boards tonight. Sort of my reflections as a Caps fan over the years. Again, for the archives as one day Benjamin will read all this hopefully.

[i]Seems like it never ends and it was appropriate they played that tune by Sugar Ray "When It's Over, It Never Ends" or whatever it's called after the game.

I keep coming back. Been a fan since day one when my Dad had season tickets and I was 12. He had them through 1980. I went off to college and he decided to drop them. First taste of playoff fever was when they lost out on a playoff berth on the last day of the season in 1980. I think the Caps had to beat Atlanta and Ken Houston (who would later be a Capital) scored late to tie the score 4-4. Caps were 27-40-13 then.

In '85, I see games one and two vs the Islanders and the Caps win in OT both times. Then lost the next two in NY. So it's game 5 at Cap Centre and Billy Smith stood on his hands and the Isles completed the comeback 2-1. First round was best of five then. I was crushed and all I could think about was the missed opportunity and I couldn't wait until the next season

Then the next year, '86. Caps had the third best record then. I went to one of the Islander games and the Caps won that series and got that Islander monkey off their back so to speak. But I was angry as hell at Denis Potvin, who broke Bengt Gustafsson's leg and to this day I still think that loss of Gus cost the Caps a Cup. The Rangers were a stubborn opponent and I watched game one as Brian MacLellan score in OT to give the Rangers the win. Rangers won the series 4-2. Again, crushing blow.

Other great wins and tough defeats followed through the years (you know the history). Overall I've been to four game seven's now with the Caps, seeing the Hunter win in '88, the Devils defeat in '88, the Pens defeat in '92 and last night.

Following this team for so long, you just savor the victories and bum out during the defeats. Over the years, when I was younger I've broken up with girlfriends over the Caps loss in the playoffs. I used to think my biggest mistake as a Caps fan was taking my girlfriend at the time to game seven of the Devils series in '88. I actually blamed the defeat on her since they were unbeaten in the four regular season games I took her to. Relationship went belly up by the time Edmonton skated with the Cup.

As you get older and into your 30's and you have more responsibilities in your life, it doesn't hurt as much. At least that's what I experienced but I was still a fan. Never a doubt about that. Last night I got home late and just hugged my son before going to bed. Today I talked to a couple friends about the season, checked the message boards and that's pretty much it until next year. Back in the early days of this franchise, you didn't have message boards, national sports radio or the media we have today (I feel like an old man at 46 writing this). You called your buddies or Ken Beatrice and celebrated or voiced your frustration and kept saying next year...

It's great seeing the responses in this thread because I went back in time a bit when reading these and I understand the pain each poster is feeling today.

We'll all be around when they pass the Cup to Ovie and it will be a great thrill seeing it, no doubt. So keep on rooting for the Caps and just appreciate what they did this season and when September and training camp come, get fired up!!![/i]