Just as the Boston Red Sox players who didn’t win a World Series for 86 years weren’t “cursed” and Cleveland’s title-less run since 1964 doesn’t make the city snake-bitten, neither are these Capitals prisoners’ of their franchise’s inglorious playoff past. The notion that the Caps are destined to lose another Stanley Cup playoff series they led 2-0 — because since 1985 they’ve lost eight series when they were up 2-0 — is patently foolish.
Ovechkin, Backstrom and Green don’t bemoan their fate. But the recent playoff history of a team’s nucleus counts.
A year and three days ago, these Caps were wobbled badly in Game 5 against the Rangers in New York. In a game in which they outplayed and outshot the Rangers, Brad Richards somehow snuck in a goal under Holtby’s pads with 6.6 seconds left to force overtime and the Caps suffered a crushing loss and lost the series. Same with the Penguins in 2009, when the Caps’ led 2-0 and lost Game 7 at home. The 2010 collapse against eighth-seeded Montreal when, up 3-1 in the series, they came out flat in Game 5 and ended up losing the series, was inexplicable.
Since 2009, the common denominators have been Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green and Brooks Laich, who hasn’t yet made it back from a minor groin surgery, and bit-part players Erskine and Jay Beagle.
Those players can say last year or the year before doesn’t matter all they want, but until they broke through Friday night, the Caps were going to be judged largely on their inability to climb the hill in the postseason.
Overcoming the adversity that came with going down so early Friday night was huge, and it led to shrills and screams two hours later when Ribeiro scored and put Washington on the precipice of knocking out the Rangers for the third time since 2009.
On a night when they could have dropped their third straight game to New York and made Madison Square Garden await a possible season-ending loss in Game 6 Sunday, the core players and the new ones combined to create a new history.
Indeed, Caps 2, Their Wrenching Playoff History (okay, for at least Friday night) 1.
For previous columns by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.