When you have your back against the wall, you have only one option: come out swinging. If you think the Washington Capitals are going to do anything other than come out swinging in Game Five, you are mistaken. This has been a season of rallies and a season of trials, I would expect nothing less of the Tampa Bay Lightning than to be the biggest challenge yet as the Capitals look to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat after me: This. Is. Not. Over.
It’s like a video game. As you get closer and closer to the final level, the challenges that stand between you and your goal get harder and harder. Mario didn’t travel across eight lands and expect an easy fight with Bowser. But the hard fought battle made his victory so much sweeter when he was reunited with the Princess. If I may be so corny, dear readers, the Lightning are our Bowser. But this is not a fight we are incapable of getting past. Let’s take a look back at the season and see just how well the Capitals do with their backs against the wall.
October 5, 2017: Alex Ovechkin’s Opening Night Hat Trick
In the very first game the Caps played this season, the Ottawa Senators seemed to have their number at every turn. At the start of the third period, the boys in red were down by a score of 3-1. Alex Ovechkin dug deep within himself to rack up three beautiful goals in the final period, all of which were necessary to carry the game into overtime. The Capitals would go on to win this game by a score of 5-4 in a shootout. Having earned his 18th career regular season hat trick and the first two points of the season, the Caps’ competitive leader proved on the night the season began that the Washington Capitals were not a team to count out of any situation. This statement road victory set the tone for the whole season.
February 11, 2018: Capitals Beat the Buzzer to Push OT After a Dismal First 40 Minutes
Have you forgotten this one? I haven’t. Holy moly, this is what team sports are all about. Ovechkin scored a power play goal from his “office” in the first period and then the Detroit Red Wings ran away with the game. At the start of the third period, Washington was down 4-1. But thanks to a late game rally from the entire team, the Capitals were able to tie the score and force overtime yet again. Brett Connolly got the third period started for the Capitals, followed by Dmitry Orlov. And then, with an empty-net on one end of the ice and six men on the other, and with just 17 seconds left in regulation, Nicklas Backstrom faked a pass, and slapped the puck into the back of the net to tie the game up. The Caps would unfortunately go on to lose this game in three-on-three overtime, but thankfully, those rules don’t apply in the postseason.
March 3, 2018: Holtby Redeems Himself After Slump on an Outdoor Stage
One of a small handful of games played outdoors each year is the Stadium Series game, and this season saw the Capitals play on their turf (sort of) in Maryland as they faced the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Caps, dressed in blue for a change of pace, dominated the Leafs for most of the game. As many fans will recall, there was a nervous excitement before the start of this game as Barry Trotz announced that Braden Holtby would be manning the net that night. Holtby was, at the time, in a terrible funk. Coming back from the All-Star break earlier in the year, his game had been far from what fans have come to expect from him. Thankfully, the team has a stellar backup goalie in Philipp Grubauer to guard the crease while Holtby regained his confidence and cleared his head. Tonight, however, Holtby returned in excellent fashion, allowing only two goals on the 29 shots he faced. Relieved by his performance in net, fans gave their trust back to the dubbed Holtbeast. He would go on to dip again, for a short while before returning in glorious fashion yet again, and this time, he stayed true to the Holtby we all know and love.
April 6, 2018: Washington Rallies for Four Games Straight to Hang Up the Jackets
In the first round of the playoffs, the Columbus Blue Jackets played with tremendous confidence and an undying will to to succeed. By the time the final buzzer sounded at the conclusion of Game Two, many fans believed this to be the beginning of the end for the Capitals’ playoff run. After embarrassing the Caps in the first two games in their own arena, the Caps then stole two from the Blue Jackets behind enemy lines. With the series tied, the boys in Red rallied to win another two straight, after a promise from the Blue Jackets head coach to force a Game Seven was proven wrong, the Capitals celebrated their resiliency only briefly before turning their attention to the two-time Stanley Cup Champions, the pesky Pittsburgh Penguins.
May 7, 2018: The Demons Have Been Exorcised
Many people expected more of the same when the Penguins tied the second series 2-2. But Coach Trotz publicly pleaded with the fans to stand behind the team. Whether you chose to dismiss his cries for support, or whether you tuned in to see the end of the series, his message paid off in spades as Alex Chiasson put the Caps on the board in Game 6 before Evgeny Kuztensov sealed the deal in overtime to put the Penguins’ three-peat opportunity to rest, and to move the Capitals to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1998. In those moments right there, as the Caps poured out of the bench area to celebrate, is where they found the will to take the first two wins in the third round. But even the highest waves of momentum come crashing down eventually. Coach Trotz asked us to do him a very simple favor, and now I ask of you the same.
May 19, 2018: Washington Returns to Tampa Bay Looking for a Third Win
And they can’t do it without you. The Capitals are now in a best of three series with a clean slate. The Caps are 7-1 on the road this postseason, and two of those games (should the third contest be required) will be on the road. Columbus beat them twice, the Capitals won the series. Pittsburgh beat them twice, the Capitals won the series. Please, from one humble fan, to all of you who read this morale boosting article, tune in tomorrow night and cheer the boys on, don’t be afraid to Rock the Red. The Caps have yet to be beaten. Their backs are against the wall, and they’re ready to come out and face the final boss. But a hockey team with no fan support is doomed to go nowhere. You play a much larger role in the Capitals’ success than you think. We need to be behind them win, lose, or draw. I am. Are you?
By: Chris Laroche