I always wanted to follow Stanley around for a night in Washington, where I’d no doubt end up at the Russia House or some swanky club in Georgetown with Ovi, Greenie, Brooksie and the boys, an interloper chronicling the most magical night of their careers.
But now it’s a day before Game 5 of yet another first-round series I thought they could end Friday night — all the newfound possibility of a deep postseason run put on hold after the Rangers scored eight goals in two games to knot their best-of-seven series at two games apiece — and I don’t know anymore when or even if “My Night Following Around the Cup” gets written.
Taught early in this business to root for good stories instead of teams, I nonetheless feel the Capitals are annually telling me what they keep telling their emotionally beaten-down fans: Don’t get your hopes too high because we’ll eventually dredge out your aortic valve with a backhoe.
For the past six Aprils and Mays, the Capitals somehow become the inverse of Michael Corleone’s “Godfather III” line, no?
Just when I thought I was in, they pull me back out.
The nails-tough guy in net from the first two games lets in a soft goal or two. The Great Eight goes AWOL for a game or more. The top line sputters. The puck winds up on the Caps’ half of the ice twice as often. The howls grow in decibels in the visiting arena.
Next thing we know it’s Hefty-bag day in Ballston. It doesn’t matter the year, the coach, the goalie, the role players; just when we summon the strength to finally believe again after all the wrenching losses and early exits this time of year — after a hope-is-lost 2-8-1 start this season — it feels like they’re on the way to singeing the soul before June. The Rangers. Montreal. Pittsburgh. Tampa Bay. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
“Same ol’, same ol’,” was the collective message from the masses after Game 4.
Every time a sincere belief develops that this franchise can make a playoff run resulting in the most glorious moment of its history, nada. And it’s not just the fans who remember where they were when Pat LaFontaine’s goal pierced their innards in the wee hours of the morning.
After Mike Green blasted home the winner in overtime to put the Caps up two games to none in the series oh, last Saturday, some of my office mates were actually asking me in what city I thought I should book my second-round hotel. Since 2009, in my imagination, I have stayed in opulent suites in Vancouver, Chicago and Los Angeles, and I have made fun of other writers who thought they would spend a night following the Cup.