So Wednesday night saw the end of what could arguably be the best Caps season in recent history. Despite the letdown of Game 7, Caps fans – diehards and bandwagoners alike – can walk away with heads held high.
Should I remind you why?
1. Alexander Ovechkin. Every year, he gets better. From his exuberant celebrations (Don Cherry be damned) to his wide, gap-toothed smile, to his on- and off-ice passion, he is Mr. Caps Hockey. Does he still have more to learn? Honestly, yes. But he’s young, he’s talented, and he’s willing. It’s only going to get better from here, so settle in and enjoy the ride.
2. Simeon Varlamov. A risky chance taken when Coach Boudreau started the rookie netminder in the second game of the Rangers’ series, it’s proved to have paid off in spades. Don’t blame him for Game 7′s meltdown; he is arguably the main reason the Caps survived to last night’s showdown. It’s safe to say that the Capitals have found their goalie for the near future, as Jose Theodore will either see more time on the back bench next year or be waving the District goodbye over the summer.
3. Alexander Semin. Despite his ghostly appearance throughout the Penguins series, Semin has come into his own this season. He’s not at the top of his talent just yet, but he’s blossoming. While his injury earlier in the season hobbled him some, he roared back well enough to finish in the top ranks of Capitals’ scoring. And now with more playoff experience behind him, he’ll come into his own very quickly. Just like Ovechkin, settle in and enjoy the ride while the Caps retain him.
4. Winning ways. How long has it really been since Capitals hockey was even exciting to watch? Too long. Despite being stuck in one heck of a crappy division (the “Southleast”), the Caps nearly took the Number 1 seed this year and topped out at 108 points on the season. That’s nothing to sneeze at, and may well become a common occurrence for the foreseeable future.
5. Verizon capacity. Used to be easy to get tickets to a Caps game, even for marquee opponents. Now? Sellouts are common and the “Sea of Red” is a phenomenal sight, even on television. The buzz and excitement about hockey here in the District warms a hockey fan’s heart (like me), because even bandwagoners seem to at least be trying to learn about the game.
There’s very little to dislike about Caps hockey right now – except the end of the season, obviously. And yes, even though my ultimate allegiance is to a different team, I’ve enjoyed watching Caps games (in spite of Comcast’s absurd blackout rules) and the awesome resurgence of a rivalry once diminished.
Lord Stanley’s Cup will visit the Capitol in the hands of the hometown team one day soon. With this core of talent? Bank on it.
So join me in thanking the Capitals for a season very well done. And to future successes. Bravo!