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Cold Feet March 25, 2010

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.

I have a confession to make. I don’t know if I’m ready for the playoffs.

No, really. The Caps have already tied the franchise record for most points in a season, will probably set team records for points and wins, and will probably win the President’s Trophy if they keep doing what they’ve been doing. It’s been a regular season run for the ages, and it’s been a privilege to have been along for the ride.

But this is just the regular season. An off night here, a missed chance there, maybe a bad night at the office for one of the goalies, and no biggie. But in three weeks, every pass through traffic, every missed clear, every whiff on an open net, and it’s forever. One bad night at the Phone Booth last May, and next thing we knew, the Penguins won it all. For the past five months, and for the next nine games, we have had and will have tomorrow. In seventeen days, tomorrow goes away, and every success and failure is for all time.

And I’m just a fan in the nosebleeds who runs a minor-league blog in his spare time. I can only imagine how the players and coaches must feel right about now.

A paradox: you play for six months of tomorrow so that you can have no tomorrow.

Seventeen days hence, it’s either a victory parade or the golf course; “Don’t Stop Believin'” or “Wake Me Up When September Ends”; immortality or death. The latter not in the literal sense, obviously, but definitely in the hockey sense.

There are a couple of scenes from Stephen King that come to mind: the first nightfall in “The Long Walk,” and the descent from “The Langoliers.” In both scenes, the characters are about to experience something very, very scary: either the night, or a descent to a world they may not recognize when they see it. But the unknown is unavoidable: days don’t go on forever, and neither do fuel loads. That scary unknown is about to happen: like it or not, ready or not.

Since October, all of us who are part of the Capitals community have known what the regular season would bring. The Southeast Division was ours to lose, and we’ve had it clinched for a couple of weeks. Now, there aren’t any foregone conclusions in sports. But if the Caps had not won the division, it would have been the biggest collapse since the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The regular season had a fairly certain conclusion; perhaps that’s why I’ve been able to go to games without my nerves enhancing the pint of Red Bull I traditionally drink before games. We’ve known for a while that American Pride 29 would make it to Boston without incident.

In a little over two weeks, that stops. It’s all unknown from there. Night falls on the Long Walk; American Pride 29 gets diverted. Seeing the unknown approaching–that unavoidable, unpredictable, scary-as-you-know-what unknown that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs–is keeping me awake nights. Can this really be The Year? Are we about to take part in the first Stanley Cup championship in Capitals history? Or will our historic playoff fate, God forbid, befall us yet again?

We are about to embark on the second season; in a way, it’s the real season. This is the season where heroes are made. This is the season where legends are born. This is the season where winter’s warriors become summer’s champions. The great unknown is upon us; like it or not, ready or not.

In seventeen days, we begin our quest for sixteen wins. Fifteen teams will fall, and fourteen others won’t even last that long. In about thirteen weeks, give or take, we’ll be done with the season, and a victor will emerge. It’s been twelve years since the Stanley Cup Finals were last contested in the District; will we see them here again this year? As the sea of red-clad fans in Verizon Center raises the volume to eleven in a few short weeks, the Washington Capitals will take to the Verizon Center ice, carrying the hopes and dreams of tens of thousands of Caps fans past and present. Nearly nine olympiads’ worth of history will serve as prologue to the heroism of a certain #8, along with all of his teammates. Let us then rise to be the seventh player on that ice, willing our team to victory every night, even if the games run for six periods. The past five months mean nothing at this point; now, we are down to four series. If the Caps come out on the right side of three handshake lines, it will be on to the Finals, where two opponents will do battle to determine which of them will be the one Stanley Cup champion.

And despite my cold feet–something I seem to get every April–I have to believe that the number of reasons the Caps will not win it all, is…zero.

Our time is now. It has to be.



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