When I get nervous watching big important Capitals games, I have to do something with my hands in order to deal with the tension. Usually, I find one of my wife’s numerous hair clips and just turn one in my hand over and over again, making endless circles.
I’ve never felt any tension watching a Super Bowl, and I don’t care enough about basketball to even tune in for a single minute. And therein is the magic of hockey. Two teams I don’t even really care about (although I wanted the Canucks to win because my exhaustion at the city of Boston winning every single title overwhelmed my abhorrence of Vancouver’s infantile tactics and dirty play), made me care enough to feel tense and nervous.
I don’t know if there’s any “secret” or magic formula required in order to win a Stanley Cup. The older I get, and the more I see every year, the more I’m convinced it just comes down to plain old luck. I can’t count how many times I saw players from the Canucks either have pucks jump over their sticks or just whiff on shots that could have changed the course of the game early. There are certainly things you can do to improve your luck (like not committing dumb penalties), but it always seems like everything comes down to one bounce this way, or one bounce that way.
I’ll admit that every single year it gets tougher to watch the rest of the playoffs when the Caps are eliminated. This year especially bummed me out to the point where I barely watched any of the Conference Finals, because I felt like it should have been our team playing there. It should have been our year. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were gone, as were the Rangers. It was all set up, and it all went away that quickly. It’s depressing and fascinating and wonderful and heartbreaking to watch another team celebrate with the Cup all at the same time.
I’m sure some fans will be looking at the recent Finals and ask themselves what the Caps should have done to put themselves in a similar position. To me, it comes down to the bottom six forwards, the role players like a Brad Marchand or a Daniel Paille or a Rich Peverley or a Chris Kelly, players of a caliber that the Caps lacked. Guys like that have to hold the fort, because your top guys are going to draw the toughest defensive assignments (the Sedins were pretty much completely shut out by Chara and Seidenberg). You get to a position where you can win, and everything takes care of itself from there.
So we’ll head into the draft and free agency and another long offseason and we’ll do this all again next year. I will hope against hope that the Capitals will not disappoint me, and I look forward to seeing new faces and learning new names. And I hope that at this time next year, when I’m nervously turning hair clips in my hand, I’ll be lucky enough to be nervous about the team I care about the most.