Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Do or Die for the Caps

Four playoff series' in the Alex Ovechkin era---four game seven's.

The Washington Capitals have been heavily favored in the playoffs the last two years, and each time they have gone to game seven. In 2009, the lowly New York Rangers had a 3-1 lead on the Caps before Ovechkin and his crew stormed back to win game seven at the Verizon Center. In round two, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins were down 2-0 in the series before winning three of the next four and taking game seven to end the Caps season.

What will the end game be in 2010?

Unfortunately, professional sports builds up heroes and brings down goats. That's the way it is. Dan Marino? Couldn't get back to the Super Bowl. Charles Barkley? Couldn't win a title. Stockton and Malone? Jordan was just too great. Alex Ovechkin? Sidney Crosby has a title and an Olympic game winner. It's unfair to guys who are great that their teams just don't supply their great player with the same firepower as the winners, but people see it as the star being the failure. Let's not kid ourselves: if the Caps don't win tonight, it won't be on Alex Ovechkin. Mike Green has been so non-existent that I thought I saw him taking classes at American U the other day instead of being in Montreal.

Ovechkin needs to win this game in order to not be perceived as a failure. The Caps have already underachieved the last few years, and a loss as the President's Cup champions in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the 8th seeded Montreal Canadiens would be absolutely devastating. Not only would Ovechkin lose in the first round, but he wouldn't make it to at least the conference finals for the third straight year.

In order for the Caps to win tonight, their role players must show up as they did in the regular season. Green, Alexander Semin, and Tomas Fleischmann must make major contributions tonight to avoid a destructive loss at the Verizon Center. If the Caps lose tonight, it's possible they could lose confidence, and certainly a ton of momentum as the premier team in DC for a few years.

One must remember that DC is a bandwagon town. Couple that with the fact that no team here has been very good in the last twenty years since the Redskins last championship in 1991. The Caps have completely capitalized on the woeful Nats, the brain-dead decisions of the Wizards, and the utter dysfunction of the Redskins. A loss tonight would kill their momentum, especially as the Redskins and Nats can only get better from this point forward.

Alex Ovechkin is one of the top ten players to ever wear an NHL jersey. His personal stats now and when he retires will be incredible, but he needs to make the Stanley Cup Finals this year to be taken seriously among the greatest players ever. A loss tonight in the first round would be like Kansas losing in the NCAA round of 32: they wouldn't even have given themselves a chance this year to win.

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