Thursday, April 21, 2011

This Year Might Be Different

Hockey has never been able to get a real foothold in Baltimore, and that is a real shame. I remember going to Skipjacks games as a kid, and I know that the Flyers were originally supposed to be a Baltimore team (which is why they share the same colors as the Orioles and their name is at least tangentially connected to ornithology. "Flyers"). Hockey does not translate as well to TV as the other major sports do, and that has stunted its growth. But it is one of the most exciting sports to watch live, and while Baltimore may not have a team there is a good team (with a really cool owner and a few players that even casual hockey players may have heard of) right down the road: The Washington Capitals

I'd rather be red than dead? Yup.

For the last few years the Caps have been knocking on the door of the upper levels of the NHL. Last year they were the overall number 1 seed in the playoffs, only to run into a buzzsaw of a goalie named Jaroslav Halak of the Montreal Canadiens (a prime example of riding a hot goalie in the playoffs, kind of like what the Caps did in 1998 w/Olaf "Olie the Goalie" Kolzig), but that was just one instance of the team failing to capitalize (sigh, I really couldn't think of a better word) on their potential and get to that next level.

So when the Caps took a 2 games to nothing lead over the New York Rangers, then lost Game 3 while playing a rather listless game where they kept tying it up but never really had any momentum, I did start to think the worst. And when I saw that they were down 3-0 in Game 4 I got what unfortunately was a feeling I had felt before.

Now since I was working last night I couldn't really watch the game. But when I walked over to the bar once I wrapped up the trivia hosting duties I saw that it was tied 3-3 and in overtime. And by the time I got home I found out that the Caps had somehow found a way to win it in DOUBLE overtime.

The series is not over, as last year's collapse after a 3-1 series lead against the 8 seed of the Eastern Conference showed us. But this feels different. Caps GM George McPhee talked about how the team "grew up" this season, and they did make a sea change in style of play by actually playing some defense (it seems the "run-n-shoot" offense is as successful in the NHL as it was in the NFL. It's exciting, but you really can't win consistently without at least SOME defense). They can still score, but they get back on their side of the blue line now. And while they are not the best team playing right now (I would probably say the Detroit Red Wings are the top team as of this moment), they have every chance to go far into the "2nd season". Maybe a rematch of the 98 Stanley Cup is in the cards. If so, let's hope for a different outcome.

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