Tonight the first puck of the 2009 NHL playoffs drops in Washington DC as the Rangers make a trip down I-95 to face off with the Capitals at the Verizon Center. As the playoffs begin, the shaving razors will go away and Capitals fans are hoping that the beards of their beloved team grow long. This year much more is expected from the Capitals in the “second season” than was last year, when they made a miraculous run to finish the regular season, won their division, and made the playoffs. Eventually in 2008 the Capitals amazing run to make the playoffs came to an end in the first round when they lost an overtime heartbreaker in game 7 to the Flyers. Even though the Capitals lost to the game to Flyers, the Washington franchise achieved a huge win, they finally turned a region that could care less about hockey and turned the Verizon Center into a sea of Red.
As the countdown to the beginning of the playoffs has only hours left on it, Capitals fans are ready to for the team to take the next step in their Stanley Cup quest. The red #8 jerseys cover the streets of our nation’s capital ready to rudely welcome the Broadway Bullies to town and begin to write a new chapter in Washington Capitals history. Can the Caps make it out of the first round this year? Is goalie Jose Theodore good enough for this team? What will Sean Avery do? And even more importantly, what will Alexander Ovechkin do in the playoffs? All of those questions and more will begin to be answered tonight in game 1, a game that will surely set the tone for the rest of the series.
While the Caps took seven out of the possible eight points from the Rangers this season, much has changed in the Big Apple and this isn’t the same team they’ve faced four times already. The Rangers have a new head coach (John Tortorella), a new physical forward (Nik Antropov), and a new top defensemen (Derek Morris). Add that to a Vezina Trophy (NHL’s best goaltender) candidate and the Capitals certainly have their hands full with the Rangers.
While I am not Nostradamus, I can guarantee that there will be a lot of hitting, some great fights (Avery vs. Brashear?), blood on the ice, teeth knocked out, and if the Capitals are lucky some YouTube worthy Ovechkin goals in this series. This is a series between two of the most important cities on the planet, New York and Washington DC. Will the Caps rise to the challenge? It’s not always going to be pretty, but in the end I think the Capitals will have enough to get past the Rangers and advance one step closer to kissing Lord Stanley’s Cup in a few weeks.