Except for one wild spring in 1998, it’s always been the same for the Washington Capitals.
The NHL playoffs come around — and the Caps always seem to find a way to lose.
Sunday at the Verizon Center, they did it again, this time coughing up a golden opportunity to eliminate the Boston Bruins, who staved off elimination with a 4-3 overtime win over the Caps that sends the series back to Beantown for a 7th and deciding game this Wednesday night.
I don’t have to tell you how that one is likely to end.
A month ago, it looked all but hopeless for the Caps, who meandered through a regular season with little enthusiasm and needed a final week surge and a late collapse by the Buffalo Sabres to even qualify for post-season play. But after Saturday’s 4-3 victory at Boston in Game 5, Ovie and Company returned to the friendly confines of their own building in Chinatown with a chance to be the unlikely victor in a playoff series pitting the #2 seed vs. the #7 seed.
They couldn’t get the job done on Sunday, unfortunately.
I called it before the game even started, much to my own chagrin. Prior to the face-off, I submitted a 3-2 OT loss for the Caps on our @WNST Twitter account. It felt almost mean to make that call, but I’ve seen too many Caps playoff games over the years to do anything except predict a loss.
These are the Washington Capitals.
I’ve been following them since 1974.
When the playoffs come around, they just always seem to do something wrong at the worst time to lose a game they either shouldn’t lose or couldn’t afford to lose.
Last year’s 4-0 sweep in the second round at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning was actually an anomaly for the Caps. They rarely get bounced out of the post-season that easily. No, no, these Caps always seem to find a way to defeat in the most unimaginable of ways.
As I wrote on Twitter yesterday, when you cut the Caps open, heartache leaks out.
It’s just not in their DNA to win a big playoff game.
Sure, they’ve won some in their lifetime. The Hunter overtime goal on Ron Hextall and the Flyers easily comes to mind. Sergei Federov’s late goal vs. the Rangers a few years ago that gave Washington a Game 7 home win and a series triumph over the Rangers is another. Chimera’s game-winner in overtime last April at the Garden in New York. And back in 1998, the Caps beat everyone put in front of them until the Stanley Cup Finals when the Red Wings pasted them in four straight.
But make no mistake about it, the playoff heartbreak and the post-season losing far, far outweighs the winning.
I don’t know what it is that keeps the Caps from winning in the post-season.
Somehow, someway, they just always fail when the games matter the most. It’s always something. A great scoring chance squandered, a bad defensive decision, a soft goal on the goaltender or, as we saw on Sunday vs. the Bruins, a turnover near their own blue line and a quick transition that led to the game-winning tally.
I’ll watch it on Wednesday night, of course, because it’s Game 7 and it’s for all the marbles and they’re my favorite hockey team.
But I’m nearly certain of what’s going to happen.
It’ll be close and a nailbiter and all that jazz, but when the horn sounds after 60 minutes, the Bruins will somehow squeeze out a narrow win to move on to the next round.
I’ve been watching these guys play since 1974.
They’ll figure out a way to lose on Wednesday night.