Once again the Washington Capitals have failed to make it out of the second round of the Stanley Cup play-offs. Even after an incredibly bold, even a little crazy prediction by their captain Alex Ovechkin that they were guaranteed a win in game 7 over the New York Rangers (really sick of that team and their goalie who's second in my mind to Braden Holtby), they went to overtime and lost 2-1. Heartbreaking to D.C. fans but maybe it wasn't such a bad loss.
Don't get me wrong, I was as crushed as any self-respecting Caps fan should be and I had done every superstitious thing that I could have done - lucky tee-shirt that I wore during game 7 against the Islanders, same flannel shirt, Caps quilt out on my bed, I didn't even watch the game because I had watched game 6 in which they lost. But to the fact that everyone is claiming that they lost even after the 'guaranteed win' sentiments from Ovi, which yes by the score on the board at the end of the night they lost, however I feel as they did win.
Hold up! Before you go of on some rant about the only win that counts or is real is the one on the score board at the end of the night. Let me explain.
This season the Caps had yet another new coach. I was quite fond of Adam Oats but I understand why they parted ways. They started from scratch with new coaches, some new players, and a new mind-set. They wanted to make the Verizon Center a place to be feared. A place that teams would dread playing in. Barry Trots wanted to change the teams whole mind-set, yes celebrate a win but move on to the next game, sure a loss hurt but use it for fuel and move onto the next game.
So here are the ways that the Caps won:
1) They made the Verizon Center a place teams dreaded. No, I don't have any ins with NHL teams but I have heard fans talking, a bonus of people watching. Fans of the L.A. Kings to the Boston Bruins, even the two teams they played in the play-offs, made it clear they hated playing in D.C. which is a stark change from past seasons. Now fans hated the fact that they had to play in D.C., because it meant they would have to work for a win if they were going to get one. No easy win was going to come out of D.C.. The Caps were by no means the best team in the NHL, but they play way above their ranking most if not all nights in the Verizon Center. So I have no idea if on the team level the opposing teams felt the same way their fans did but their fans sure hated the Verizon Center.
2) They played like they wanted the Cup. Sure they've wanted it in past seasons, but this team, this season, looked like they could win and contend with any team they may come across in the hunt for the Cup. The 2014-15 Caps were the best team I have seen on the ice of the Verizon Center wearing the home jersey in years.
3) They finally had a starting goalie who stood tall and was reliable. Holtby, Holtbeast, the Bearded Beauty, what ever you want to call him, was the best player all season on the ice for the Caps. So many games came down to him. So many games could have ended differently if he hadn't made that one stop. Yes, the rest of the team stepped up and played some of the best hockey D.C. has seen in years, however Holtby carried the team on his shoulders to the play-offs. Even Rangers fans are commending him on his play in the final game of the their post-season. A few even wanted to buy him a drink. One Rangers fan commented on the Caps Facebook page that he wanted to buy the whole team drinks because they played hard and had earned his respect. If that doesn't scream we won than I don't know what will.
4) Last season the Caps missed the post season. It was hard but expected. They didn't play well. They didn't have a drive. This season they came storming back to the play-offs and made it known that they were a team to be reckoned with. They were a changed team and a team that wanted the Cup. The Caps put all of the NHL on notice that they were back and wanted the Cup.
So in my mind Ovi, you were right. You and your team, including your wicked awesome coaches, have won. And I don't care what others are saying about when are the "next years" going to stop? When is it going to be too late for our greats like Ovi, Holtby, and Backstrom? There is next season. Forget the Rangers. They can go back to New York. The Caps should use this as fire. They may have 'lost' but they have won. They have a gigantic opportunity next season with Trots leading them to become great, to reach a point they haven't been in so long. So I will look forward to next season, next year, next play-offs. Because it will be their year to take. Next time we will face the challenge and win.