In a sense the narrative that will follow the upcoming Caps-Pens second round series has already been written. “same ‘ol Caps” or “Caps break through!” will be the primary titles for the stories that follow the conclusion of the series.
Ever since the Rangers’ Derek Stepan sizzled a rebound past Braden Holtby’s blocker-side 11:24 into overtime of game 7 in last season’s second round series, the Capitals have been preparing to re-set the table and get back to that point. The Caps are once again on the doorstep.
Since game 7 last season, the Capitals have collectively licked their wounds, slowly regrouped, restructured the team with player acquisitions and departures, and worked all season to get to back to this fateful point – a full year in the making.
The Capitals are essentially in the exact same spot they were in for last season’s game 7 versus the Rangers – the proverbial fork in the road. Only this time there will be no small victories (like returning to the playoffs under a new coach). Make no mistake, this is a boom or bust scenario. There will be no in-between that follows this series.
We’ve heard all season that this team is different, and that much is true. All teams are different in some fashion, each and every season. However, the reference has unmistakably implied that this team can and will advance past the second round of the playoffs. Many fans have most certainly already decided (consciously or subconsciously) somewhere mid-season, that this team will be a bust if they don’t advance past last seasons ending point. Thus, right or wrong, the post-series narrative has already been written.
The trip back has been a long road, but a promising trip nonetheless. There is nothing left to do but play the games and write another chapter in the Capitals’ franchise history book.
By Jon Sorensen