Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Capitals Playoffs: Will They Finally Put It All Together?

It's that time of year again. The Stanley Cup Playoffs start for the Capitals tomorrow vs the New York Rangers.

The Capitals have never won the Stanley Cup. I've retold the story hundreds of times. I've have been a fan of this team since day one when my Dad bought season tickets with some of his co-workers and sat through their first season when they were the worst hockey team of all time at 8-67-5. If I were to ever get a tattoo I would put the original Capitals logo and 8-67-5 under it.

I sat through some really bad hockey games at the Capital Centre but it was a lot of fun. The love for the team kept growing as players and coaches came and went and the losses mounted up year after year. When they first had a shot at the playoffs in 1980, they needed to win their final game at home against Atlanta. They ended up tying. I remember the players slumped over on the bench. So close, so far. That crushed me as a high school senior because I wanted it so bad for those guys.

In 1983 they finally made the playoffs. I was in North Carolina at school and I remember tuning into WTOP AM 1500 with my Panasonic Tech 1000 to listen to Ron Weber call the action. In 1985, I went to my first playoff game against the Islanders and Alan Haworth won it in OT for the Caps. That same series I experienced the first of what was many in person playoff disappointments as the Caps lost the deciding game five at home. This was after they had a 2 games to 0 lead.

I won't go through their entire playoff history here (see the videos below) but it has not been pretty along the way. Sure, there have been some awesome moments (Dale Hunter OT series ender in '88 vs the Flyers) and some not so awesome (Ron Hextall scoring a goal...he was the Flyers goalie). They even got to the Stanley Cup Finals once in 1998 and I saw the Stanley Cup awarded on our home ice. However, it was to the Detroit Red Wings as they completed the four game sweep of the Capitals. Just my luck as a Caps fan I guess.

The Caps went through a rebuild after the NHL lockout in 2005. Since they made it back to the playoffs in 2008, it's still been rough sailing following this team in post season. They have played four series, all lasting seven games and have won one of them (2009 vs NY Rangers). I sat in stunned silence in 2009 as the Caps got drilled in game seven of the second round at home to the hated Penguins, who went on to win the Stanley Cup. In fact, in each of the Penguins three Stanley Cup years, they have defeated the Capitals along the way. That hurts.

Nothing hurt more than last year though. The Caps were the President's Trophy winners as the team with the best overall record in the NHL. Heavily favored and number one seeded, the Caps lost game seven at home to the eighth seeded Montreal Canadiens. That is still burning inside me as every Caps fan thought it was their year.

So you can see it's not easy this time of year for us Caps fans but there is no chance I will ever, ever abandon ship. I don't have season tickets and I don't often get out to the arena as much as I'd like to but I've got a ton of emotion invested in this team over the years. I've worn white, I've "Rocked the Red". I've come home with my ears ringing. I've come home with no voice. I've met some really great folks along the way. What would I do, drop them and root for the Anaheim Ducks? Are you kidding me!

So this year the Caps are the top seed in the Eastern Conference and are taking on the eighth seeded Rangers. As usual, there are a lot of questions: Will the Caps learn from their early exit last year or will they continue to be the Greg Norman (Google him if you don't know who I'm talking about) of the NHL? Will this team under Alex Ovechkin finally make a long run in the playoffs? Will this long suffering Caps fan ever see his team hoist the Stanley Cup in June?

Stay tuned...Let's go Caps!!! Believe!

Outstanding "History Will Be Made" Videos. Here are the Capitals two.

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