New England adores history, but views it with a Puritan tilt, a distrust of any display of unearned joy — like optimism in advance of an actual final score. As soon as Caps goalie Braden Holtby got hot, the Boston Globe obligingly noted, “Remember unheralded rookie goaltender Steve Penney and the Canadiens sweeping the heavily favored Bruins in 1984?”
“Picking” the Caps in a Game 7 is just inverted showboating. Every time I review their accumulated failures since 1983, I’m dazzled, even though I covered almost all of the worst of them. You start to repress memories, such as their 2-7 mark in Game 7s or the seven times they have blown a two-game lead in the playoffs in the last 26 years.
The Post Sport Live crew debates which team is feeling more pressure, the Capitals or the Bruins, heading into Wednesday night’s Game 7 in Boston.
However, one atrocious April distinction, out of all the Caps’ indignities, may be pertinent now: The Caps have lost a playoff series in which they had home-ice advantage 13 times, including each of the last four years. They had home defeats in Game 7s in ’08, ’09 and ’10. So why not go to Boston?
From afar, you’d assume that the Bruins are delighted to come home and that it is almost certain to help them. Think again. All sports karma in Boston is intertwined and the worst possibility gets the benefit of the doubt.
The Bruins will have a home-ice advantage right up until the moment when the finally healthy Capitals give the packed house a reason to doubt, to bond in anticipation of defeat, to prepare their Bruins jokes for their coworkers in the morning. In this series, where both home arenas can turn into haunted houses, the visiting team has a four-games-to-two edge.
In what has been a stellar, taut series, the slightest factors have proved pivotal. With Presidents’ Trophy winner Vancouver already eliminated and the top-seeded Rangers facing a Game 7 of their own, the Caps-Bruins winner could go a long way this spring.
The Caps have three factors in their favor. They are underdogs (on merit), and that reduces pressure. They’re not at Verizon Center, where their dismal history is always pushed flush in their faces. And they are performing at TD Garden, a fickle venue full of New England mood swings that is not nearly as friendly to the Bruins’ psyches as the Caps’ followers may assume.
Boston is the town where sports karma, whether running hot or cold, can be infectious. Right now, it’s gettin’ chilly. And I’ve got the hat to prove it.
For Thomas Boswell’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/boswell