Capitals trying to put past behind themBy Matt Verderame
The Washington Capitals are chokers. They have been since throughout the Alex Ovechkin era, failing to reach the Stanley Cup Finals even once in his 11 seasons. In that same time frame, they have won six division titles and reached the postseason eight times.
Most of those seasons saw a high-powered team in the nation’s capital that never could find defense, or heart. Washington has been the favorite many times over, only to be knocked out in the first rounds each and every appearance during Ovechkin’s career.
This season, the Capitals once again appear to be a lock for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Washington plays in hockey’s toughest division, the Metro, and yet slices through it like the proverbial hot knife through better. The Cpitals have it all. The dynamic scorers are in place, the goaltending is solid and the coaching is top-notch. Heck, few teams have the experience of this group, but will it matter come April, May and perhaps June?
At 31 years old, Ovechkin has to be thinking about his legacy. Washington has not won a Stanley Cup in the franchise;s history, making him a legend if he can deliver just one. if he fails to do so, his career will always be looked back upon with a but in the sentence, something no superstar should want to live with. His counterpart, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, already has two rings and three Stanley Cup Final appearances. In that comparison, Ovechkin comes up woefully short.
With seven 50-goal campaigns under his belt and an astounding 1,018 points in 897 career games, Ovechkin has the Hall of Fame wrapped up if he never plays another game. Now, he needs to shed the label of choke artist, something both he and his franchise have been carrying around for years.
There has never been a better opportunity for Washington. The East is good, but there is no great team. The Penguins might be worn down by the time spring rolls around, having been deep in the playoffs each of the last two seasons. The New York Rangers are solid, but the lineup doesn’t boast the same type of talent that sits in Washington. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens are good teams, but inferior in comparison.
At 39-12-7 and with 85 points, the Capitals are undisputedly the best team in the game. Washington has 10 players in double-digit goal scoring. Every player on the team who has played in more than four games is a plus. Goaltender Braden Holtby has a 2.01 goals against average and a .926 save percentage with seven shutouts.
The time has come for Washington, and Ovechkin, to get over the hump. If they don’t, it’s back to being chokers once more.