With their 4-2 series win over Columbus, the Capitals are going to play in their seventh second-round playoff series in the last 11 years. That’s incredible! Don’t ask how they did in those second-round series.
Okay, they’ve lost them all. Every single one of them. That’s amazing, too, in its own way.
To make things potentially worse, Washington has another date with Pittsburgh. The Penguins have won nine of 10 postseason matchups with the Caps, including the last two years—both en route to championships. In fact, the Pens have never won a Stanley Cup without first dispatching the Capitals.
Barry: no. Sorry. We’ve already forgotten who you just played.
It feels a little different this year, no? These Capitals won their division just about as quietly as a team can do such a thing. Very little was expected of them this year, even upon making the playoffs. When they lost the first two games to the Blue Jackets, both overtime crushers, the prevailing reactions was welp, that’s about right. And then they won Game 3 in double OT. And game 4. And Game 5, again in overtime. And last night, a 6-3 win that felt kind of inevitable from puck drop. Caps fans can try to yank themselves away from a team that’s done nothing but kick them in the dick, but they’re just gonna get pulled back back in.
“Here we go,” said Nicklas Backstrom (the “again” is implied), and in context it sounds a little like a threat.
The rivalry is and always has been so much more than just Ovie vs. Sid, but it’s definitely that too. And if you’ve mentally checked out on the Caps this year—you’d be forgiven—you should know that Alex Ovechkin is doing the same old things, flirting with earning the descriptor of “ageless.” He led the NHL in goals. He led his team in goals in this past series. He scored two classic Ovechkin goals last night, crucial ones both.
In the second, he was lurking when he likes to lurk, and put back a rebound to take the lead for good.
And then, a few minutes later, it was Ovechkin, on the power play, taking the one-timer from the left circle. Stop me if you’ve read that sequence of words before.
It was Ovechkin’s 51st career playoff goal, good for fifth among active players and pretty damned impressive given that he’s never had a single deep playoff run.
So, let’s do this. Again. The Caps may be relatively uncelebrated this year, but the sneaky part of this series is that these Penguins aren’t that great either. This is, context and history aside, a pretty evenly matched series. Thankfully, for fans of cruel voyeuristic entertainment, the context and history are there and everyone involved knows it.
God, this is gonna be so good, no matter what happens.