Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Door Closes, A Window Opens

As I watched Alex Ovechkin embrace each of the Flyers with the class and dignity of someone ten years older, one thought kept running through my head: They deserved better. This hurts because they deserved better, each and every one of them.

It does hurt. In the aftermath of this game there will be things Caps fans can complain about, things they can point to that could and should have gone the other way. The Flyers second goal, a prime example of "incidental contact" if I ever saw one that went uncalled. The tripping penalty in overtime, a call that might have been technically right but was nowhere near blatant enough to warrant affecting the outcome of an entire series. Any number of missed or bizarre calls throughout the series.

And is what it is. Things like that happen in every series and it's the team that overcomes obstacles like those that truly deserves to move on.

We've been calling this team a "team of destiny" - and maybe this was their destiny, to fight hard and play right up to the end like we knew they could but just not be ready to go to the next step. Maybe it wasn't time for them to meet the Penguins in the playoffs again. Maybe it wasn't time for this team to get anything but a taste of the postseason.

They've played a full seven game series. They've been up, they've been down, they've come from behind to win and held onto leads and learned what NHL playoff games really should be. It's priceless experiences like that which will only help them in the long run. The time will come when this team will be ready; when they will come into a series with the same energy with which they leave it, when they will no longer find themselves in awe of playoff intensity but rather own it, play it, live it. They've proven themselves capable of that much already.

Until then there is a lot to be happy about - in this game, in this series, and in this season as a whole. Think back to where we were exactly five months ago tonight and look at where we are now and tell me we have anything to regret, anything to be ashamed of. No, this team should hold their heads high and be proud of accomplishing so much after so many people counted them out so many times.

Tonight was the culmination of many things, the fruition of a season-long and really a three year-long process of growth and rebuilding. There will be other playoff series, other chances to right a wrong, and in the meantime the sense of accomplishment should linger with every single player and fan.

We've seen the evolution of one of the league's great talents from rookie standout to true leader, on and off the ice; in Ovechkin we have the future of the team and it's a bright one.

We've seen the maturation of his supporting cast, no less talented in their own roles - Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, Mike Green, Dave Steckel, Boyd Gordon - all of whom stepped up to the plate and answered the call when needed.

We've seen franchise records fall and NHL history made; we've seen 300 wins from the great Olie Kolzig and Brooks Laich's first 20 goal season. We've watched a team of nobodys, of youngsters and once-forgotten veterans, come together with a chemistry and comraderie that I've never seen before. We've seen the rebirth of this city as a true hockey town, swathed in red and excited about the Caps again.

The curtain closes on this season but it's hardly the end. We'll be back next year stronger and better than ever, a team perched on the verge of greatness with a summer to think about the bitter taste of losing - and about how they never want to taste it again. This team is hungry. Strong. Resilient. There is no doubt in my mind that they will be back in the show again next season and when they are, look out.

There are questions to be answered in the coming months, issues to be resolved, contracts to be signed. What does the team do with Mike Green? How about other RFA's who are equally important to the team and it's chemistry, such as Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr, Steve Eminger and Shaone Morrisonn? Does Sergei Fedorov retire? Does Olie Kolzig? Will Cristobal Huet stay in DC? Can the team bring back both Matt Cooke and Matt Bradley or does one of them become expendable?

It's going to be an offseason filled with answers to these questions and we'll have plenty of time to begin answering them after the sting has worn off a little.

For now, though, we only have the knowledge that the sun must come up tomorrow - and while it may not seem as bright as usual, the reality is that it's actually brighter than ever.

And sometimes it's a sad song...
But I cannot forget
Refuse to regret
So glad I met you
Take my breath away
Make everyday
Worth all of the pain that I've gone through
And mama, I've been cryin'
'Cause things ain't how they used to be
She said the battles almost won
And we're only several miles from the sun...
--"The Sun" by Maroon 5

Note: It's time for a much needed vacation from the Cheap Seats, a few days to clear the cobwebs away and start fresh...stay tuned. We'll be back.


Schnookie said...

CC -- I'm so, so, so, so sorry your guys' run ended tonight. But this is a great post! There is so much to be looking forward to with this team! Enjoy your well-earned vacation, and then a regrets-free offseason. I don't think this year's Caps is a team that has a lot of "what if"s or "if only"s attached to it. It's only going to get better from here.

CapsChick said...

Thanks, Schnookie - had I known you were still kicking around I would have left you a nice thank you for your kind thoughts over on IPB.

Since you've come to the Cheap Seats...thanks for all your kind thoughts ;) And I agree, there is so much to look forward to next year. No regrets. In fact, I think they'll strive to make you hate us even more next year!!

CapsChick said..., hate THEM. Oy. My brain is fried.

Chris & Sarah said...

Well written and nice thoughts CC. I think we all need a breather from the roller coaster season we have had. And we can definitely look forward to an even better season in October.

kristin said...

I was really looking forward to y'all being able to stop the Pens. Now who's gonna stop them?

Great series, and great game 7...your fans really brought the noise last night.

Flyers definitely did not deserve last night's win...they played like crap, and were the recipient of some officiating gifts, but Marty kept them in it.

I didn't get to see Ovie in the handshake line, but the pictures look classy.

don't know what else to say except......sorry?

Pookie said...

CC, I also want to say that I'm so sorry! I agree with Schnookie (surprise!) that there is a lot of good to take from this season and this series. And also, great post!

Anonymous said...

Last night's game was a pure example of city that jumped on the Cap's bandwagon. The way the fans responded after the Caps were defeated in overtime was totally unacceptable and childish. True hockey towns show respect after a hard fought game 7 even if their home team loses. I guess there will be alot of Cap's Jerseys for sale on Ebay. Have fun golfing!

CapsChick said...

C&S: Thanks,'s been quite a year, hasn't it? There certainly is something to be excited about for next season!

Kristin: I'm putting my hope in the Rangers (ugh) to stop the Pens or...sorry, the Habs ;) As for the officiating gifts, they happen. We got some too, not just last night but all series, so I guess both teams were equally screwed. Rematch next year? :P

Pookie: Thank you! And *gasp* you two agree?? Scary ;) But yes, next going to be fun. I can feel it.

CapsChick said...

Anon: I'm not about to defend the few morons who decide to ruin it for everyone else by throwing stuff on the ice - it's classless from any city and the majority of normal fans don't condone that kind of thing.

But if you want to call our fans bandwagoners you'd better bring more evidence to the table than just a few beer bottles on the ice - frankly if that's all you've got than Philly fans are the biggest bandwagoners around. Guess you missed all the fans who stuck around to applaud the team as they left the ice and all the Caps fans who shook hands with the Flyers players as they exited the ice and things like that, huh?

I'll have a post up later in the week about exactly why this city is not just bandwagoners, as fans of other teams always seem to accuse us of being - it's like you can't think of anything bad to say about our team so you throw that at us.

Feel free to stop by at that time and argue with me again...and keep in mind that I've been a fan for 25 years and will continue to be one even if they never win a Cup. Until then? Good luck with the Habs. You'll need it. It'll be fun watching the Kostitsyns run around your twin pylons, Hatcher and Smith.

Grégoire said...

I feel sorry for the caps. I'm a habs fan, so hopefully Montreal will kick some flyers asses in the second round!
As for the caps, this is really more a beginning than an end. I hope Huet will sign in Washington, I'd love to see him stay with this promising team.

Anonymous said...

I waited a few days to cool down to make my comment on game 7so here it is take it for what it is worth.The NHL better known as "numbskulls/headcases/lunatics.What the hell was Korharski doing officiating a Capitols game seven anyway considering his history with the Caps and his impartial "cough cough" officiating in their games in the past not to mention his hatred of the Caps organization.I bet you one thing you will not see that fat donut eating s.o.b. or Davorski officiating the cup finals .I hate sound like a sore loser but i use to be a philly fan until we got the caps here. I have been around a long time and have seen a thing or two but that has to be the worse in my hockey fan days, enough said and thanks again Mr. bettman for a lovely end to a great season and I think you should publicly apologize to the players of both teams for you have tinted both their seasons you idiot.

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