Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Game Seven: Flyers 3 - Caps 2 (OT)

The problem with dreams is, sooner or later, you wake up.

The awakening from the dream of a long Stanley Cup tournament run came at 6:06 of the first overtime period last night as the Capitals lost game seven to the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-2 on a power play goal by Joffrey Lupul. And in the end, those are the only numbers that matter...Flyers 3, Caps 2.

There are probably those who will dwell on officiating, whether opportunities were squandered, or whether the hockey gods just don’t much like the Capitals.

You won’t find that here this morning.

This team owes no one anything. Ask yourself, if you were sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner last November 22nd, and as you were taking turns giving thanks for your blessings, your crazy uncle said, “I’m thankful that we live in a town where the hockey team is going to make the playoffs,” would you have been tempted to file commitment papers?

They gave us one helluva ride…

A 37-17-7 record after Thanksgiving.

A season for the ages from Alexander Ovechkin

The “young guns” stepping up in a big way to make this their team – Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom – after the club lost its captain, its top center, and a top-four defenseman to injury for more than half the season.

An unexpected year from Brooks Laich, who wasn’t even supposed to be here…or at least the thinking went last summer.

A hockey lifer with a twinkle in his eye finally getting a chance to coach behind an NHL bench, and grabbing that chance by the throat to be considered a potential coach-of-the-year candidate.

A roll of the dice by a general manager with the nickname, “The Undertaker,” to bring hockey royalty, a few sheets of sandpaper, and goaltending insurance to the club for a stretch run that will be remembered long after the handshakes of this series are forgotten.

A sea of red replacing a desert of empty seats.

The experience of sound taking form and substance.

Four teams remain in the fight to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup final. The Capitals are not among them. Congratulations to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Montreal, and the New York Rangers. The Stanley Cup tournament being what it is, we’re sure they’ll put on a great show.

Thoughts will turn to next year (and what Caps fan can’t wait for that?) and, inevitably, who will and will not return. There will be a time for thinking about that, but this morning isn’t that time.

Nope, this morning we’re sad at the result, but not disappointed in this team. Unlike past heartbreaks, when the Capitals team that lost did so as underachievers, this one fought tooth and nail for two months without a hint of quit in them. They grew before our eyes and came within an eyelash of giving us another two weeks (or, who knows…more) of memories. Although it’s small consolation to the players, coaches, staff, and fans of the club this morning, they achieved far more than anyone had a right to expect as we were sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner last November, and for that…

Bless you boys.