After 20, long, grueling years the Washington Capitals have done it. They have slayed the second round beast which has haunted them for years and finally bested the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs after losing to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions in 2016 and 2017.
Yet statistically in the regular season the Capitals team was the worst they have seen in a while finishing with 105 points. Yet in 2016 the Capitals recorded 120 points and in 2017 they put up 118, so why was this the team to finally put an end to the that curse.
The answer to that question dates back to the first round of the playoffs where the Capitals faced off with the Blue Jackets. Before anyone realized what was happening, Washington had dropped two at home and were heading toward what many thought was a certain first round exit.
As newspapers and sports talk radio debated the future of this Capitals core and what should become of it, captain Alexander Ovechkin was focused on game three. In fact, he guaranteed Caps fans that their beloved team would return to DC with the series knotted at two.
In the business of full disclosure, I must admit that when I first read this quote, I scoffed at the idea that the Caps would not only win the next two games, but win four out of the next five.
Yet Washington was in the business of ignoring all the doubters and showed the world what they were capable of by winning the next four in a row to advance to round two.
Their they met a familiar foe, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens vs. Caps matchup had been played out over the past two years, with the winner going on to take home lord Stanley’s Trophy.
So why was this time any different from the last two? One could point to ‘The Naked Man’ logic from How I Met your Mother where ‘The Naked Man’ only worked two out of every three times.
However, the more realistic answer is that the Penguins were tired.
This is not breaking news but hockey is hard, and playing over 100 games (which is what most teams who reach the playoffs do when you include the preseason) is exhausting. It is quite possible that the Penguins were gassed after their core reached the second round four out of the last five years.
This, and the fact that the Capitals were on fire (now with the series win winning eight of their last ten) lead to Washington knocking the two time defending champs out of the playoffs.
Looking ahead for the Caps, the road does not get any easier as they will be facing off against the Lightning who have looked practically unbeatable during the playoffs but if the past two years are any indication, the Capitals are in good shape.
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