Frustrated fans are not surprised by Caps' failure

Washington squanders a 3-1 series lead and is left with another historic playoff collapse after a 2-1 loss to the Canadiens in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
By Zach Berman
Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rob Darnell stood in the Verizon Center concourse in the final minute of the Washington Capitals' 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, refusing to watch the game. For Darnell, a 40-year-old Arlington resident and life-long Capitals fan, he knew what to expect.

Some fans had already exited. Others remained in the concourse watching the game on television. Darnell stood with his back to the screen.

"I'm just pessimistic when it comes to playoffs for the Capitals," Darnell said. "They win the Presidents' [Trophy], and it's almost like it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter who they have on their team. When it really, really counts, they just don't get it done."

The Capitals have never won the Stanley Cup and have only once reached the finals. What appeared to be the a pristine opportunity in 2010 did not convince Darnell, who arrived at Game 7 pessimistic because of the team's history.

"We always felt like there was some kind of curse about the team," Darnell said. "The Caps always got beat by Pittsburgh. Then, they got [Jaromir] Jagr, and they couldn't make the playoffs. So, they have a knack for being the best team -- or whatever, making the playoffs -- going to the end, and just never get it done."

Two fans who grew up rooting for the New York Rangers compared the Capitals' postseasons to the Rangers in the decades preceding the team's 1994 Stanley Cup triumph.

Ken Hrica, 42, is a season ticket holder from York, Pa., who travels two hours for Capitals games. He, too, arrived without much optimism because of the team's playoff history.

"The history of this team, I know what happens this time of year," Hrica said. "We're not a playoff team. And until we get that mentality, we never will win these kind of games.

"This is the kind of game you got to will the puck in, and we're not going to do it, I don't think. I hope I'm wrong."

Frustration oozed from the fans leaving the arena, many of whom still anticipated the NHL's top team during the regular season to extend its postseason beyond the first round.

But each professed loyalty to the Capitals. Meg Stensrud, a 25-year-old Fairfax resident, said she would still support the team despite becoming disenchanted by the playoff failures. Part of the sting, she said, is because of how the Capitals compare to the other teams in the Washington sports landscape.

"As a Washington fan, it's the only thing we have left," Stensrud said. "The Nationals [stink]. The Redskins are like, maybe next year, every year! The Caps are the ones that we have."

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