It’s the end of July, we’re at the tail end of one heat wave and probably headed for another, and I’m writing a post on the Washington Capitals. The NHL season doesn’t start until October so you would think I’d have more timely things to concern myself with like the chances of the injury plagued Boston Red Sox making another run at the playoffs, or the impact of the arrival of rookie sensations Steven Strasburg to the Nationals and John Wall to the Wizards. But no, I have Caps on the brain and things to say about the state of affairs on F St., NW.
I can finally talk about the deafening silence that enveloped Verizon Center last May at the end of the Capitals game 7 playoff eliminating loss at the hands of the Montreal Canadians, first round lost, one and done, schools out.
On that day 18,000+ inside the arena and multiple tens of thousands in living rooms, bar rooms, and anywhere else that had a TV tuned to the game, stood in stunned disbelief at the outcome. Our Caps had the best record in the regular season, earned the #1 seed entering the playoffs, our captain is arguably the best hockey player on the planet and he and his teammates comprised one of the most explosive offensive machines in recent memory. We weren’t suppose to lose, but we did, and we did it by getting bounced out in the first round by the 8th seed.
The gift in this tragic tale is in its use to exorcise the demons of loss and recognize that redemption comes in the Caps hitting the ice next season with a successful run for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The team’s recent development camp showcased great young talent in their minor league system waiting in the wings to be called up on a moments notice. The core of last year’s offensive arsenal, Ovechkin, Backstrom, Knuble, Green, and Semin, are returning next season with Ovechkin and Backstrom set to return every season for a decade or more. Potential superstar defenseman John Carlson will be playing his first full season in the league and adds another weapon on the blue line with a knack for scoring highlight real goals. They have a pair of 22-year-old goaltenders with lightening fast reflexes and NHL regular season and playoff experience. All of what were unrestricted free agents have signed contracts for next season. It appears that the house is in order and the nucleolus of a winning team has been assembled, is what we see enough?
Last season started with high expectations in the after glow of the game 7 loss to Pittsburgh in the 2nd round of the 2009 playoffs. In that game the Caps got pounded 6-2 but there was a feeling among the masses that the team had just begun to mature and that they had earned a spot on the big stage, and the respect of their peers. Last year they were on the big stage because most people thought they should be. This year is going to be different, the doubters will have bigger megaphones and hard questions will have to be answered by players, coaches, and management. This team is another year older, but are they wiser? Individually these players have grit, but does this team have the collective heart of a champion? Is this group of players capable of redemption?
I’m thinking a chip on their shoulders with some attitude will provide enough backbone and motivation for these Capitals to earn redemption. GO CAPS!