Friday, December 03, 2010
Happy Anniversary...Now, How About a Happy Springtime?
Yesterday marked the 13th birthday of the Verizon Center, then called "MCI Center." Sunday will mark the 13th anniversary of the Washington Capitals' first game there. In that game, Jeff Toms scored 3:32 into overtime to give the Caps a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers in the inaugural game at the big house on Fun Street. It would be the springboard to a 26-20-8 finish that would earn the Caps a playoff berth that they used to earn a trip to the Stanley Cup finals. And it is here where the Verizon Center showed itself not to be a friend of the Caps in the spring.
The Caps opened the playoffs in the spring of 1998 with a 3-1 win over the Boston Bruins, signaling that the new arena would give the Caps quite a home-ice advantage. But starting with that game and that season, and over the 12 years to follow, Verizon Center has been anything but an "advantage" for the Capitals in the playoffs...
-- The Caps have a 14-22 record in Verizon Center in seven playoff seasons.
-- In six of those seven seasons, the Caps would play their last game of the season -- a loss -- on Verizon Center ice.
-- In three of those six seasons, the loss would come in a Game 7 (each of the last three seasons, to the Flyers, Penguins, and Canadiens).
-- In one of those six seasons, the last game would be a three-overtime loss on a power play goal scored by Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis, the penalty being for the mundane offense of too many men on the ice. It was one of three losses at home -- two in overtime -- by the Caps to the Lightning in that year.
-- In seven playoff seasons since VC opened, the Caps have never had a winning playoff season at home. The best they have done is to break even in two seasons -- in 2008 against the Flyers, and in 2009 against the Rangers and Penguins.
-- The Caps have a 2-6 record at Verizon Center in overtime playoff games. Three times they lost games on power play goals (twice in one series, against Tampa Bay in 2003), and once they lost scoring into their own net on a deflection off a Capitals' stick.
It's nice that the Caps have a 12-1-1 record so far this season in Verizon Center. It was nice that they had a 30-5-6 record at home last season and a 29-9-3 record there in the season before that, not to mention winning eight of their last ten at home in that big finish to the 2007-2008 season. But when the trees bloom and the flowers make their way toward the sun in the spring, Verizon Center (or MCI Center, or "The Phone Booth"... whatever you want to call it) has been a house of horrors for the Caps and their fans, especially with three Game 7 losses in the past three years.
Let's hope this year -- the "lucky 13th" year -- is different.