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Well, the thing that most of us expected to happen happened, and that doesn’t make it any less painful. As Patric Hornqvist deposited a puck into an empty net, it sealed a fourth Stanley Cup Championship for the Pittsburgh Penguins, including a second in the past 7 years. In fact, 7 years TO THE DAY that Sidney Crosby won his first Stanley Cup, he won his second. And just like in 2009, the Penguins defeated the Capitals en route to winning.
Ian Cole, Justin Schultz, Connor Sheary, Tom Kuhnackl, and Brian Doumolin all have their names on the Stanley Cup. Brian Rust scored two goals in a game 7 victory over the Lightning. 21-year-old Matt Murray stood on his head at points in the playoffs, and was robbed of the Conn Smythe (playoff MVP).
Meanwhile, it’s going to be another long summer of DC, wondering what could have been and why as a city we are cursed. Frankly, that’s the only thing I can believe. After the Lake Erie Monsters defeated Hershey for the Calder Cup, Cleveland now has more championships in the last 20 years than DC. Despite having the greatest goal scorer in NHL history, the presumptive Vezina trophy winner, and scoring depth that the Capitals have never seen before, the Capitals were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, again.
I don’t know what it’s going to take for the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup; voodoo magic, ritualistic animal slaughter, Pittsburgh-esque luck (oh they got plenty of it). Probably some combination of those three things, but the fact of the matter is that we, as DC sports fans, have just been conditioned to accept heartbreak, and quite frankly failure. This Capitals season, despite all the regular season wins and potential individual accolades, cannot be seen as anything but a failure.
Winning the Stanley Cup is difficult, arguably more difficult to win than any other sport’s championship. The Caps had the ammo to do it this year, and yet a Penguin team lead by Ian Cole and Justin Schultz on defense beat a deep, skilled Capitals team (as well as the Rangers, Lightning, and Sharks), and stretched this city’s championship drought to 25 years (Redskins in 1991). I’m not implying that the Capitals need to win the Cup every year, but with a core of players like Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Holtby, these playoff disappointments that keep happening are frankly inexcusable. As fans, who spend so much of our time, energy, and money on this team, we deserve better.
And so, as Pittsburgh celebrates another Stanley Cup (and another championship for that matter), we endure another long, painful, hot, humid DC summer, thinking of what could (and frankly should) have been of this season. It sucks watching another team win the cup, and it sucks even more when it’s Pittsburgh.
But, as the creed of DC sports reads, “there’s always next year.” And next year, we’ll all don our red sweaters, head down to the big barn at 7th and F, and hope that this will finally be the year, only to be inevitably heartbroken (again) at the end of the season.
By Matthew Jacobson