It has been a busy year for me, and a lot has gone one. While I have gone into semi retirement, it seems I have stayed every bit as busy. Having completed my Virginia Master Gardener certification through the Virginia Cooperative Extension, taken two scouting trips to Florida for a potential move there, moved twice, and continuing to be a very active Master Gardner volunteer in the communities of Arlington and Alexandria VA, I have not had much time to devote to writing about the team I love most, even though I still watch almost every single game.
I made a promise to myself while attending the Caps training camp this season that I would make an effort to write here at least once per week, for the 2010/2011 season, so here I am.
After a fantastic 2009/2010 season winning the Presidents trophy for the first time in franchise history for the NHL's best regular season record, the Capitals set season franchise records for: most points in a season (121), most wins (54), fewest (including over time losses) losses (22), winning their 3rd straight, 5 overall South East division championship, and 6th over all divisional championships. They also sold out Verizon Center for every single home game of the season, all but forcing them to introduce standing room only tickets. Ah, the Capitals playoff hopes seemed very promising indeed. The feeling around Verizon Center and Washington was that this could possibly, finally be our year. Many fans, including myself were hoping, if not almost expecting the Capitals to push deep into the post season.
Alas, this IS the Washington Capitals we are talking about. True to Capitals form the Capitals continued to take a page from their great history in the late 1890s, and could not shed the old ghosts of playoffs past, which came to call on them. The old "Choking Dogs" curse as it now seems it is, still has a firm grip on the Capitals.
The Capitals faced the #8 seed Montreal Canadiens in the opening round last spring, in what looked to be a fairly lopsided match up in the Caps favor. However, the Habs came into the phone booth and silenced the stunned sold out solid red crowd of Caps fans with a 3-2 overtime victory, planting the seeds of doubt in the minds of Caps fans everywhere. The Capitals would come back to win the next three straight, taking a 3-1 series lead. The series seemed to be all but assured to go the Caps way. Not so, as the ghosts of choking dogs past would have it. The Canadiens came back to win the next two games to force a deciding game 7 do be played on Verizon Center ice in front of the raucous red rocking Capitals faithful. If at any time in the Caps franchise history they were going to prove they were for real, and had shed the "Choking Dogs" moniker, surely, this was it. Having the best team the Caps have ever had put on the ice since they came to Washington in 1974, this HAD to be it. RIGHT?
Once again, the unthinkable, yet now oh-so-believable happened. The Capitals, after taking a 3 games to 1 series lead, LOST game 7 at home, 2-1 sending the sold out standing room only red clad crowd of Caps fans home, stunned and many in tears. An emotional train wreck. It's funny, because as much as I had hoped beyond all hope this would not happen, I had a gut feeling that it once again would. I even mentioned it to my partner in crime. The Capitals are definitely one of the KINGS of the monumental playoff failures in the NHL, and they just could not get out from under that. Having watched them do this many times in the past, I was neither shocked nor stunned. Just sad, and pretty numb. I have said this many times before, and I will say it again here now: Being a life long Washington Capitals Fan, is almost like being an abused spouse. They hurt you time after time, year after year, then make up for it some, give you hope that things will change for the better, only to do it all over again in some way, shape or form. Caps fans are addicts, we just have to keep trying it, hoping that each dose will be as good as the first, and the next high will take us higher than that, all the while knowing the fate we will probably ultimately endure. We know pain and suffering. Perhaps some of us subliminally like it? Who knows. But one thing is for sure, after all the pain and suffering we have endured in 35 seasons of Capitals Hockey, we keep coming back. For all of the newer Caps fans out there, This is nothing new, this is what it has always been like. Constantly sold out, raucous crowds packing the old Capital Centre in Landover, MD, filled with hope, and at times having immense joy, only to ultimately be let down, crushed. The only difference was back then, we all wore white and did the "whiteout" thing.
Yet, somehow we still believe. We're STILL HERE, and as I said, we keep coming back. I guess there is something to be said for loyalty huh? I suppose we can take solace in the fact we are not alone. We have something in common with Chicago Cubs fans. There are still a few NHL teams out there that are as old, or older than the Caps who have never won the Stanley Cup either. I guess those fans could possibly feel our pain too?
So here we are again, going into the 2010/2011 NHL season, same hopes, same dreams, same fears. Uncle Ted, and the Caps will surely come through, and take us to the promised land! Won't he? I for one, still believe. Ahhh to be a Caps fan... Hope springs eternal doesn't it?