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Signs, Miracles, and One Final Push March 21, 2012

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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And so it’s come to this.

The Flyers did the Caps no favors whatsoever in losing at Wells Fargo Center the other night.  The Panthers are now 5 points up on the Caps, with a game in hand that will be taken care of later tonight when the Panthers visit Carolina.  While anything can happen in a division game, let’s imagine a doomsday scenario where Florida wins the game and comes out 7 points ahead of the Capitals, with only 9 games left for both teams.

If you look at the breakdown of games remaining for both teams, you’d have every reason in the world to think the Caps have no shot at the division title in a situation like that.  The Caps have games against all three division leaders in the East (Rangers, Bruins, Panthers); a visit to Philadelphia (no easy barn, that); games against Winnipeg and Buffalo (both fighting for their playoff lives at this point); and one more dance with the Bolts, who have given the Caps fits all season.  They have one game against Montreal, the current last-place team in the East; but remind me how they did back in 2010 when Montreal was the lowest-seeded team in the Eastern Conference Playoffs?  The Caps have one home game against the so-so Minnesota Wild, but other than that, if you really wanted to be a fatalist, you could find reasons why the Capitals could lose 8 of their last nine games, but don’t go there just yet.

The Panthers, meanwhile, have a game against the Caps and another one against Detroit.  Detroit is the current 5 out West as this is being written, and the Caps are the current 8 in the East.  Other than that, the Panthers are going to be playing the rest of the season against teams that are either just plain low-ranked (Hurricanes, Islanders, Canadiens); or on life support (Minnesota); or who are already out of playoff contention (Columbus is, and Edmonton may as well be, as they’re only alive by virtue of 2 Max ROW’s on the tie break.)  Not exactly the most strenuous road for the men from Miami, is it?

The Panthers are on a 5-game win streak, and are 6-3-1 in their last ten; the Caps have been inconsistent of late, and are 5-4-1 in their last ten.

But if you think I’m here to pile on and say “Get that fat lady onstage,” then you must have missed the title of this post.

Granted, given the current state of play, I do think it’s fair to say that the Capitals are going to need a miracle to win the division.

And my response to that is, So what?  Miracles do happen in hockey, and I’m not being hyperbolic, either.  I’ve got two words:  BEMIDJI.  STATE.  ‘Nuff said?

What do you mean, No?  Well, how about Kings over the Wings back in ’01?  How about Denmark in 2003?  How about Edmonton’s entire postseason in 2006?  And what about Belarus at the Salt Lake City Olympics?

And that’s just the RECENT stuff.

MIRACLES HAPPEN.  Re-read those two words several times, internalize them, and get ready to live them for the next two and a half weeks.  Because THAT, Caps Nation, is what we owe our team.

A while ago, I opted to change my blog’s subtitle to an open-ended question: Do You Believe?  This is the point where that question is paramount.  Because at this point, Caps fans, we HAVE to.  We have GOT to Believe our men can find their way home.  We have GOT to Believe that Florida can stumble.  We have GOT to Believe, even if that means believing something that seems impossible.

I must humbly submit that we, as fans, have been trying this whole Doubt thing for almost five months now, and that has included me at times.  How’s it working out for us?

If we want to be the spiritual support our team needs us to be, then we’re going to have to Believe.  Because it would be much better for our Belief to be assailed, than for our Doubt to have prevailed.

I Believe in miracles.  While it’s not a good thing to be forced into needing one, that doesn’t mean they can’t happen.  They don’t JUST happen–sometimes, you have to make your own miracles–but they can happen, under the right circumstances.  And they have to start from within; and that within must be from the hearts of players, coaches, staff, and fans alike.  We’re all in this together now.  All of us.  This is the time to Believe.

I’m reminded of a scene from the movie “Signs.”  This was back in the days when M. Night Shyamalan still knew how to tell a good story (“The Village” had perhaps the most obvious tell since the Oreo cookie in “Rounders,” but don’t get me started on that.)

Take a look here, and pay particular attention from 1:18:18 to 1:26:00.  (If you haven’t seen the whole thing, settle in and watch from the beginning:  this movie’s a treat, even though it’s spookier than I tend to like my cinema.)

There are two key moments in that sequence, and yes, this IS Capitals-related, keep reading!

The first thing I want to point out is Graham saying, “I’m not ready.”  Look at what’s happening there:  the monster is right on the other side of the door, turning the knob to try to get in, and Graham suddenly realizes that if this were indeed The End for him, that he’s not ready to go.  And while that can make for a very effective self-evaluation away from the rink–if the monster were knocking on your door, would YOU be ready?–I want to confine this to the Capitals.

From where I’m sitting, the monster on the other side of the door from us, is Doubt.  Doubt can very easily kill our season, and make our summer a lot longer than it needs to be this year.  Belief is the pickax that will keep that door shut, and that monster of Doubt safely at bay.  And while suddenly grabbing that Belief may be a destabilizing moment–look at how Merrill accidentally knocks out the light when he grabs it too quickly–once it’s safely in place, it keeps everyone safe throughout the night.

From a spiritual/metaphysical standpoint, we have GOT to Believe, and not let that Doubt overcome us.  Seriously:  are we REALLY ready to concede our season?  Are we REALLY ready to disappoint our players, who look to us for support just as we look to them for success?

I’m not ready.  And I don’t think any Caps fan should be right now.  We’re GOING to make it through this night.

The second thing I want to point out in that scene is Morgan’s asthma attack, and how Graham gets him through it.  Notice how Graham first has to fight off his own personal Doubt–a Doubt so deep that he’s at the point of telling God that he hates Him–before he can finally coax Morgan through the asthma attack.  What I would hope Caps fans take away from that, is that we all need to confront our own personal misgivings, before we commit emotionally and spiritually to the last two and a half weeks of the season.  In that scene, note well, Graham has to understand how much he’s Doubting FIRST, before he can convince Morgan to Believe.

Look, I’m not perfect here–I’m a long way from it, in fact–and I’ve had moments this season when I’ve had to question some assumptions I’ve had; be that about certain players, the team as a whole, this blog, my standing with the organization, on and on and on.  This has been a rough season for me personally, and not just because the Caps haven’t exactly been playing like the team I believe them to be.  Doubts?  Yeah, I’ve had more than just a few of them this year.

But I have to put that behind me; and we all have to put it behind ourselves, every single one of us.  The number of games remaining for the Caps is in single digits at this point.  So, okay, maybe an entire season of ups and downs may be too much to say we should all Believe, all the way through; but I’d like to think we can all manage it for two and a half weeks at least.  Right?

And let us suppose–dreaming big–that the Caps manage to come all the way back and win the division.  Let us suppose–dreaming big–that the team discovers its identity, and every man in the room finally figures out what it ultimately means to be a Washington Capital.  Let us suppose–dreaming big–that we see a miracle in these final seventeen days.

If that happens–and needless to say, I hope it does–then maybe that’s just what we, as fans, need to see, in order for us to finally Believe.  And maybe, just maybe, it will be what keeps us believing in miracles, all the way to ultimate victory.

This is the time for us to do our part.  This is the time for us to let go of the past.  This is the time for us to be that seventh man.

This is the time for us to Believe.



A Few Random Observations: vs PHI, 3/4/2012 March 5, 2012

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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  • There’s an old saying that reduces to, “For want of a nail, the kingdom is lost.”  The Capitals are running out of nails entirely too quickly for my liking.
  • Zero power plays for the Caps tonight, and it wasn’t because the Flyers committed zero fouls.  I get that the refs were content to let ’em play, but some of the shenanigans looked more than slightly sketchy.  I’m sorely tempted to make a wisecrack involving the refs’ female relatives and Broad Street, but I try to keep this an all-ages blog, so I’ll leave it alone.
  • I also owe a huge thanks–and a bit of an apology–to the crew at the Silver Spring Metro station.  I’d been out and about a bit in Silver Spring before coming home to get dressed for the game.  Meanwhile, the wind picked up substantially while I was indoors, and I didn’t dress for it.  So when I got to the platform and saw an 8-car train headed downtown, I moved to where the back of the train would be, in order to get the jump on the crowds once I got off at Gallery Place.  But there’s no shelter on that part of the platform, so the best I could do for a windbreak was to lean up against the ETEC locker at the end of the platform, and tighten my cloak up a bit by holding it shut.  It was effective, but it apparently caused a minor panic among the station staff:  they evidently thought I was about to jump in front of the train, and they did their jobs and came up to make sure I was okay.  I showed them my game ticket, told them why I was where I was on the platform, and that was that.  So sincerest kudos to Metro for getting it right, and all due apologies to the crew at Silver Spring for giving them a bit too much excitement for one shift.  In hindsight, I perhaps should have taken it as a sign…but that’s another post.
  • Entirely too many Flyers fans in our house tonight.  That tells me that either a lot of Caps fans didn’t like the start time–I hope!–or that a decent chunk of the fan base has already conceded the season.
  • If the Caps get God-forbid shut out, again, by the Hurricanes on Tuesday night–and for the record, the Caps have a 138:48 scoreless streak going against Carolina–then they would have exactly 74 seconds to score against Tampa Bay on Thursday night to avoid the longest scoreless drought in team history, a record which has stood since Halloween in 1989.  Perspective check:  the #1 song on the Billboard charts that day was “Miss You Much” by Janet Jackson; the #1 song immediately prior was “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You” by–wait for it–Milli Vanilli. I’m just saying…
  • While none of the Caps would deliberately volunteer to make the mistake which ends their playoff hopes, circumstances may ultimately draft one of them for that dishonor if this lackluster play continues.  1-2-0 after three of five straight at home is no way to mount a late season comeback.
  •  For that matter, the Capitals have led exactly once in this entire homestand:  at the end of the game against the Islanders, when Ovechkin scored the game winner.  In fact, dating back to the All-Star game, the Caps have held the lead for exactly 81 minutes, over 8 games played.  And the majority of that time was racked up in one single game, against Montreal.  The Caps have been playing with the lead in exactly three games out of eight, and one of those they eventually gave away in a shootout.  If that’s home ice advantage, I’d be afraid to see how they play on the road.
  • Oh, wait, check that.  I already am.
  • AND there’s a five game road trip coming up.
  • Meanwhile, Florida erased a 2-0 deficit to put four unanswered goals in on the Senators.  The Caps trail Florida by 5, with only 17 games to make up that ground.  Running out of nails, indeed.
  • Meanwhile, out West, Colorado is sneaking ever closer to a playoff berth.  Over the offseason, the Caps sent disgruntled Semyon Varlamov to the Avalanche in exchange for a first-round pick.  It looked like an almost sure-fire bet at the time:  Colorado had the second-worst record in the league last year  But the Avalanche is headed in the right direction, is 6-4-0 in its last ten, and trails San Jose for the 8 spot in the West (yeah, the Sharks aren’t doing so well this season) by all of one point.  If the Avalanche makes the playoffs, while the Capitals don’t, it could turn into a situation where the pick they traded Varlamov for would be worse than the one they owned.  I hope that doesn’t happen, of course, but it is a possibility…one I don’t think anyone could have foreseen.
  • Meanwhile, season ticket holder renewals are in play.  This level of performance isn’t exactly good salesmanship.  Sold-out home games are not a guarantee, and if these next few home games for some reason or other don’t go well, I shudder to think what that will do for renewal rates.
  • And for that matter, I haven’t renewed for next year just yet.  Probably will, but it’s getting awfully expensive to be so ineffective.  I wish there were more I could do…but there doesn’t seem to be.  And with the team struggling at home as it has, I’m beginning to wonder if whatever it was I was bringing in seasons past, has gone.  Self-doubt is something I have always struggled with, and I am really struggling with it right about now.

All in all, not a good night at the office for the men in red.  I hope to see a better result Tuesday night.