It’s the Sunday after the final Washington Capitals regular-season game.
I have a decision to make.
Do I come to my senses, realize this relationship with the Caps is only going to get my hopes up every year, then crush my heart like a grape the minute it gets to the second round of the playoffs? Or do I lie to myself, saying what’s happened in the past doesn’t mean anything, and this is the season they go deep into the playoffs.
Yeah, I know. I’m going to lie to myself. Again.
I have scanned several newspapers in search of stories that would help me with the decision. But after reading the online versions of the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Columbus Dispatch, Richmond Times-Dispatch, New York Post and Philadelphia Inquirer in search of comforting information, I could find none.
I did find one story showing how the Denver Post put out a special edition for the opening of baseball season and managed to put on its cover a picture of the stadium – in Philadelphia. I mean, how do you do that, guys? If you’ve been to a game in a stadium – and all sports guys go to games – how do you not know what your own stadium looks like? Particularly (as you see in the picture above with a red arrow pointing at it) when the top of the scoreboard says “Phillies.” You don't have to be Woodward and Bernstein to see that's a big, big clue you’re not in Denver.
But I digress.
With no analysts take telling me this is THE YEAR, I went and looked at what Barry Trotz has done during his previous three seasons as head coach of the Caps. After Adam Oates did such a bang-up job in 2013-14 that the team didn’t even make the playoffs, Trotz turned things around the next season going 45-26-11 (101 points) and Alex Ovechkin had 53 goals and 28 assists.
Caps won in the first round 4 games to 3. Lost in the second round 4 games to 3.
The next year was even better. Team went 56-18-8 (120 points) and Ovechkin had 50 goals and 21 assists. They won their division.
Caps won in the first round 4 games to 2. Lost in the second round 4 games to 2.
Last year was every bit as good as the previous season. Team went 55-19-8 (118 points). Ovechkin’s streak of 50-goal seasons stopped as he had 33 goals and 36 assists. But the team won its division, and was heavily favored again in the playoffs.
Caps won in the first round 4 games to 2. Lost in the second round 4 games to 3.
I’m sensing a trend.
This year’s team is better than Trotz’s first-year team, but not as good as the last two years’ clubs. Final record was 49-26-7 (105 points), and they won the division again. Ovechkin bounced back from last season, coming within an eyelash of having another 50-goal season. He finished with 49 goals and 38 assists after a two-goal night in the regular-season finale.
So the stats look comparable to the last three seasons. When the team won its first-round series, then lost in the second round to the Penguins. Which is the team the Caps would most likely play if they get past Columbus in the first round.
I suppose I could go with the theory that if the Caps beat Columbus in its opening series, the Flyers and Penguins are so physical, they will beat each other to a pulp. The survivor, most likely the hated Pens, will then be battered and weakened to allow the Caps to roll past them and finally get past the second round.
Hey, it could happen. And either way, I’m going to lie to myself, put on my Caps jersey before each game and tell myself this is the year the Caps turn early spring into a time of triumph.
No, it doesn't make sense. But it's an annual exercise. It's what you do when you’re a Caps fan.