Well it is all over....and where to begin? You know what I feel like right now? I feel like I was on a roller coaster that was just starting to get really good, only to be told to get off about halfway through. I'm trying to make sense of why and how things could end like this after such a great season; and then it hits me---this team is not built for the playoffs, it is built for the regular season.
Let me take you through that emotional ride one more time. You could say the Caps came out full of fire from the beginning, firing away. It actually wasn't a bad first period....until Mike Green took that stupid penalty. And then, disaster. I thought, "all they had to do was get out of the first period either tied or ahead." But it didn't happen. That was the first time I got it in my head that they would lose the game...and the series. And I would find my worst fears would come true.
You know what happened next, they of course gave up that power play goal. Great. So now they have play from behind, again. I'm taking a close look at the type of shots they're getting and, while some of them are in close, a good number of them are the type I've been complaining about this whole series. The kind where they sit back on the perimeter and take a long range shot and hope it makes it to the net. And more often than not, they would do this with one or more Canadiens players two feet in front of them. No freaking wonder why they had 30+ blocked shots by the second period.
The game goes on...Semin has that oh-so-close chance that clangs off the corner. Super. The hockey gods are laughing at us now, only I didn't realize how cruel they would be later. So the rest of the second period goes as before--lots of shots, Halak sometimes standing on his head, sometimes just being in the right angle, sometimes not needing to do a thing because his mates already got the shot to begin with. The game is beginning to slip away and 18,000+ are starting to get frustrated. I can smell the failure from my La-Z-Boy. Green takes another dumb penalty and they have to waste another two minutes of precious time. The Canadiens know this and barely try to rush up ice. Mercifully, the second ends with no score change.
I'm thinking, "this last period has to be intense, like they're playing for their lives." I'm on the edge of my seat as they drop the puck---and they look good. Right off the bat, Belanger wins the face-off. One rush produces a soft shot, then nothing. Canadiens get it back, but they get stopped at neutral ice. OV grabs the puck and darts into the zone. They set up. I'm clawing my chair now in anticipation. A couple passes to start the cycle, then Ovechkin gets it at the point. He fires it at the net just as Mike Knuble goes to collect what will hopefully be a juicy rebound. AND IT'S IN! OV does his war dance and I'm out of my chair, but then I see out of the corner of my eye the ref is waving his arms like he's trying to swat a thousand bees. "Oh, no...can't be true," but it was. No goal. I won't get into the obvious debate here because it's pointless (Ever seen a game replayed because of a ref's mistake? Yeah, me neither) as the Caps had, up to that point ample chances to put the series away and didn't.
So I sank back into my chair, deflated. And if I was deflated, the Caps looked ten times worse. That call just killed them. They had a lot of fight left but they weren't the same. A couple minutes later the Canadiens get a nail-in-the-coffin goal...or so we thought. The refs waived this one off too, although they took a bit of extra time to get it right. Same call, same line of reasoning. Only it went to review, where the first call didn't. Again, no sense arguing it as it won't change anything, but it just seems strange that in two examples of the same play one went to review and one did not. It doesn't matter as the result was the same---no goal.
The clock is winding down...more tension, but I can literally feel the game slipping away. I'm figuring on a sleepless night anyway, so I make a promise that if the Caps don't score by five minutes left in the game, I go upstairs and call it a night. Mrs. Blueliner and I went back and forth all night. Me being the pessimist and her saying it wasn't over yet and that I would be wrong again, just as I was in Game Two. Secretly I was hoping that she would work her magic again and be right, but somehow I knew it just wasn't in the cards. Five minutes left and still no change in either the effort or the score, so I trudged up to bed, trying to forget about what was probably the worst collapse I'd ever seen in sports history.
I had laid down for a few minutes when I heard a muffled noise of exasperation from downstairs. I assumed it was Mrs. Blueliner as the kids had gone to bed. I didn't want to assume what the cause was, though. About a minute later a scream of joy from the wife--the moment I'd been waiting for! I nearly break my leg rushing down the stairs...only to see a "2" under "MTL" on the screen. Needless to say I was devastated. I stomped back upstairs, quietly cursing this team that has caused me damn near three decades of agony. Mrs. B came up the stairs and I knew it was over. I told her, "I was right this time wasn't I?" "Yeah, you were," she said softly. No miracle of miracles tonight.
As I lie there contemplating what was supposed to be versus the colossal failure I saw, I thought of a lot of reasons for what happened. The more I tried to put it out of my mind, the more I thought of it, so I gave up fighting it. So much promise in so big a year--the first ever President's trophy, trophy nominations in many different categories, a banner year in so many ways; all this shot down in a bright red flame of failure. This is a hurt that will take a while to get over, but I'll remain a fan nonetheless. But with each year grows a new layer of bitterness like the hardening of skin in cold weather. It's making me more cynical that I will ever see my team lift that beautiful prize that bears so much history, otherwise known as the Stanley Cup. Yes I'll get over this and there will be a next year, but I'm going to approach things with an even more watchful eye. I've learned a thing or two in watching this sport for so long and I feel that now is the time to add my voice to the chorus that is the internet. And I'm going to use that voice to proclaim loud and long what I see as right for the team. And right now I see a team that can't win in the playoffs. Right now there's nothing more than a long summer of waiting to find out if something will be done about it.