This morning’s message is directed at all the newbies — those who’ve donned red just in the past 5-7 years of post lockout puck. Assuming you kept Jimmy Kimmel hours Wednesday night into Thursday morning and, at the onset of Blueshirt euphoria piled high by the nearside plexiglass, felt your forehead collapse into your palms while nausea enveloped your insides, you’re officially, formally members of our cursed family.
It’s a distinctive, dastardly, insidious initiation. Hell Night, but sans any redeeming, naked co-eds. And so truly Hell.
And of course, best endured, for rest-of-your-life searing effect, against a hated rival, for good measure.
Prior to Wednesday’s game 3, you were, by virtue of experiencing merely routine, family-ruinous playoff distress in recent springs, spring after spring, no more than junior or associate members in this special association. True, riding shotgun on a game 7 implosion at home against Pittsburgh in ’09 was no small initiation rite. But to truly forge a blood oath in this frantic, pass-the-Prozac-please family, you have to endure well past a menace of a game 7 meltdown. No single or even double overtime death march is duration enough. No, it is only with the arrival of the epic collapse of three, or even better, four extra sessions of sudden death that you rightly matriculate into HockeyWashington’s uppermost realm of agony. Where membership is for a lifetime.
And to add to the indignity, we then cast you down into after after-hours Metro. Branded steer destined for Chicago steakhouses have it better.
Emotionally, it seems to me, CapsNation is in one of two places right about now:
(Presenting wrists for slitting): “Why do we bother?”
- “It’s just one game in a long series. Our guys exacted a brutal physical price Wednesday night, and as the series progresses, this will pay off big time. We’ll get ‘em Saturday!”
Confession: I’ve about one and a half feet under the Dark tent this morning. Forgive me, for I am old, and an Originalist, and a survivor (sort of) of all playoff failures of the past.
And Wednesday’s heart-stabbing occurred not in any vacuum, either. Since the fall of the Red Wings, Pens, Bruins, Canucks, and Sharks in round one, there’s been some sentiment, reasonably arrived at, that a Red Sea of Prosperity could be parting Washington’s way this spring. That just adds to the agony.
More than a few voices on Twitter early Thursday morning summed up the sentiment of the veteran Dark-siders rather succinctly: We never win these games!
You see, there’s a difference between the brief extra time in game 7 in Boston a week ago and epic extra time — the witching hours for the red-sweatered.
That win over the defending champs was sweet, and slightly redemptive, reversing a wretchedly rough ledger for the Caps in game 7s. But when it comes to serial extra play in a playoff series, the games always deliver daggers our way. Four times now the Capitals have played three or more epic overtime games in the postseason, and four times they’ve lost. The names of the assailants are forever etched in Old Timers’ souls: LaFontaine, Nedved, St. Louis . . . and now Gaborik. If the Caps can keep extra time from extending beyond 40 minutes, they have a real fighting chance — they’ve won a few of those. But once those Zamboni twins emerge out from the opened corner for a fifth time in the evening, baby, it’s time to sing the blues for the boys in red.
On the Dark Side, the past is prologue. When Ovi rang the overtime pipe that prematurely sounded a game-ending horn, we Old Guarders knew the eventual outcome. It was just a matter of time.
A little more than a year ago, I handed off to my OFB collegue Elisabeth that godforsaken video compendium fraudulently identified as ‘The 10 Greatest Games in Capitals’ History.’ I had no use for the collection, but more importantly, I wanted Lis, a relative newcomer to the Red Army, to stroll a bit through the Capitals’ past, and potentially achieve some semblance of appreciation for her colleague’s spring-earned battle scars. After Wednesday night/Thursday morning, I needn’t give her any additional history aids.
This morning, my secondary ailment is fatigue, from loss of sleep following Caps’-Rags game 3 that will require the arrival of the weekend to fully recover. My primary ailment, however, is psychological, knowing no pharmacological or general remediative intervention, and broadly falls under the category of Seasonal Distress Disorder. More colloquially, it can be thought of as simply being a Capitals’ follower in spring.
I am receiving treatment for my condition. I am under the care of un-licensed but nonetheless powerfully effective puck psychologist, Eric McErlain, whose Northwest Washington office adjoins mine. Eric is far more than a kindred blogging spirit, and great friend; he is newly baptized in a Font of Optimism. A newlywed, Eric by virtue of life-transforming love, has had his outlook on life — including how he views the Capitals in spring — wholly reoriented.
“The past is a relic, and has no claim on the fate of the present,” he counseled me in the office yesterday morning.
I rebuked his sunny sentiments, scarred as I am, according them the cynicism of atheists happening upon Sunday morning televangelism. He pressed on, seeking to establish that the Capitals’ wins versus losses record this postseason, and goals for and against through 10 games against Eastern conference teams seeded 1 and 2, was proof enough of the Capitals’ staying power this spring. I’d have none of it.
Washington alone among league member clubs gets fraudulently penalized in sudden death overtime, I countered. Troy Brouwer making like Esa Tikkanen before a gaping cage awaiting a game’s resolution? It’s ordained in the stars. My counselor swiftly fell silent.
He’ll have me back on his office couch this morning. And outside his office, a line of the like-minded like me I think will be forming.