Ah, D.C. sports, never cease to amaze me. Year after year, teams from this city miss their conference championships by the smallest bit, which was exactly the case after the Washington Capitals’ second round loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on May 10.
The Washington Capitals have done the most Washington Capitals thing they could have done. Yeah, they won the Presidents’ trophy this year, and were thrown in the mix when sports writers and broadcasters were talking “Best NHL Team of 2017,” but they just could not pull it off this year.
This is not abnormal. The Capitals put on the same performance this year as they have in years past. They won the Presidents’ trophy last year, too, met the Penguins in the second round of those playoffs as well, and yes, you guessed it: they lost. The weight of the Washington Capitals’ past is a lot to drag around as fans. The list of things they have never done as a franchise is whittled down to the most important omission: They have never won a Stanley Cup.
The Capitals beat the Penguins in the 1994 season in a series of seven games, but eight different times the Penguins have ended Washington’s Stanley Cup runs. In half of those games, Pittsburgh went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Given the history between the two teams, combined with the history that teams down 3-1 in a series lose about 90 percent of the time, I did not have faith that the Capitals would make the comeback they almost did. Not going to lie, I have been disappointed by Washington teams too many times to remain even slightly optimistic. Veteran fans, who have seen this transpire in the past, were careful to get excited. “I had little hope,” junior Simon Bloch said. “I have been burned by this team enough times to know to be cautious.”
However, a three-goal deficit in game 3threeand a total of five goals in game five gave me that glimmer of hope back.
In the first four games of the series, Washington fell behind 3-1 before taking advantage of injury-plagued Pittsburgh in the following games. In addition, Coach Barry Trotz made tweaks to the lineups that looked promising, including sending captain Alex Ovechkin to the third line. “I was skeptical when [Ovechkin] was moved, but it turned out pretty well,” senior Harrison Press said.
As per usual, the Capitals did not come out victorious in game 7, losing to the Penguins in a 2-0 shut-out on their home ice. At this point, it does not matter that the Capitals may have outscored the Penguins, it matters that this was just another heartbreaking loss, leaving Capitals fans wondering if things will ever change.
This season was supposed to be different; it was supposed to be our year. But, in typical fashion, the Capitals had a second round exit at the hands of the Penguins, leading to fans questioning the future of the team. “At this point, watching the Caps lose every year has gotten to be painful,” freshman Molly Gleicher said. “In the past, I’ve been sad, but this year I am just angry.”
It remains to be seen what will happen next season, but for now, natives will reassume their positions as bitter fans, hoping for a better future.