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I have been a Capitals fan all my life ( I was born just days after the Capitals lost Game 4 of the 1998 Stanley Cup Final) and while I may not remember the first Caps game I ever saw on television, there have certainly been a number of memorable games over the years that have been firmly imprinted in my memory. Many of those games during what was dubbed the “Young Guns” era in Washington, a time when the Caps’ core of a young Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, and former Capitals Alexander Semin and Mike Green dominated the league with a high-flying offense and a flair for the dramatic. And while those years always resulted in playoff disappointment, I wouldn’t trade any of those (good) memories for anything.
Perhaps the reason those seasons were so memorable is the memories I have of celebrating goals with my family or big moments such as comebacks, or perhaps, at times, it was the significance of the games (the 2011 Winter Classic is just one such game). The Capitals certainly played some of the most exciting hockey the NHL had seen in years with the offensive prowess of Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, Green, and a supporting cast that included Eric Fehr, Tomas Fleischmann, Mike Knuble, and Brooks Laich (among many others). The first game I ever attended was on December 4, 2010, when the Caps hosted the Atlanta Thrashers (now the Winnipeg Jets); they would lose 3-1 but the highlight of the game was celebrating Ovechkin’s goal with my family members who were with me.
Of all the games I watched the Capitals teams of the Young Guns era play, none was more memorable than the team’s 4-3 come-from-behind win against the Chicago Blackhawks on March 14, 2010. After Ovechkin was ejected from the game from boarding then-Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell (a play he would be suspended two games for), the Capitals found themselves down 3-0, only to score three goals in the third period to force overtime. I still vividly remember celebrating Backstrom’s (who led the comeback with a goal in regulation and the overtime winner) overtime winner with my dad and brother, and delighting in watching the stunned reactions of the Blackhawks fans in attendance.
Despite their regular season success, the Capitals could never reach the ultimate goal of lifting Lord Stanley’s prized chalice above their heads with the core of Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, and Green. Their first round Game 7 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in 2010 still remains one of the biggest disappointments in my time as a Caps fan. But despite these playoff failures, the good memories kept me hopeful that better things were to come for the Young Guns core in the future. And while the Caps have yet to win the Stanley Cup, I still remain as loyal as ever to the team I love. And thanks to the Young Guns era, the memories I have will continue to fuel the passion I have for the Capitals.
By Michael Fleetwood