Thursday, April 23, 2009

The definition of insanity...

... is being a Caps fan since 1974 and still hanging around waiting for a Cup (no, I didn't expect one this year).  The last and only time the Caps reached the Eastern Conference Finals was the last time the Caps won a playoff series.  In 1998.  11 long years ago.  Wayne Gretsky still played hockey for the New York Rangers (sigh) and got 90 points.

There probably isn't any particular hockey game that I remember with more clarity than the Caps first game against the Detroit Red Wings in that '98 finals.  The Caps made a glorious ride on the back of their work horse net minder, Olie Kolzig and got some help along the way that year because the #1 seed - New Jersey, the #2 - Pittsburgh and #3 - Philadelphia got knocked out and the Caps, the #4 seed, kept rolling past Boston, Ottawa and Buffalo on its way to the finals. 

That first game threw water over my oblivious love of the Capitals in spite of their flaws.  Ten minutes into the game and I knew the Caps were doomed in my heart even though I continued to cheer and root for them like a crazy person. Why? Because they simply were out skilled.  There was no way this Caps team would be capable of make those perfectly executed tape to tape passes up the ice that were a thing of beauty to watch if only I were a Detroit fan. (Hmmm, they still do that quite well today, 11 years later).  Detroit swept the Capitals 4-0 in that series.

The Caps ownership at that time, Abe Pollin, couldn't care less about hockey.  That Detroit series made me realize that he would never spend the money to field a competitive team.  When he finally sold the team to Ted Leonsis all that started to change.  And, then...

Fast forward to the summer I found out about Alex (Alexander at the time) Ovechkin.  I read about him all summer and hoped that the sudden flicker of hope in my heart wouldn't be crushed again.  When he scored "the goal" and I knew he meant to do that, my heart soared.  Wow , we have a bona fide star in the making here.  And, he is.  From rookie year winning the Calder to his bevy of hardware from last summer - Art, Ross, Richard, Pearson - there's no doubt Ovie is a force for the Washington Capitals.  

And, yet, the Caps are struggling again in this playoff series against the 7th seeded New York Rangers.  Not that Ovie isn't trying because he's been a beast and, most definitely, a force on the ice in these games even though he hasn't scored much.  Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Simeon Varlamov, the young guns, have played well.  Everyone else...not so much.

Ovie, I hear you and I'll be loud, proud, in red and probably losing my voice tomorrow.  Please, unleash the fury.

Let's go Caps!


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