For posterity, a few thoughts on our Washington Capitals being Stanley Cup champions, some six months later.
What’s interesting about the experience, starting with the series victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, is how I reacted.
Defeating that nemesis in the playoffs was a long-time coming. When the Caps finally broke though, my reaction wasn’t TAKE THAT YOU DUMB PENGUINS1!!!1! or something like that — it was satisfaction, happiness, contentment and probably a little astonishment. I couldn’t even react in the text thread between me and the other La Coupe Hauxer (remember that? No?) alums, especially Pens fan TMBCE. I was just really happy.
Weeks later, the Caps vanquished another playoff foe, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The only playoff games I ever attended were Caps vs. them in 2002 and it didn’t go well. Another series was even less competitive. The reaction then was” wow, they are playing for the Stanley Cup.”
Losing the first game against an EXPANSION TEAM was a very Caps thing to do, but they split in Las Vegas and then shockingly did not fold at home, winning two straight. Game 4 was exciting, well-played hockey and the high-water mark of whatever Cap Centre II is being called these days.
Game 5, well, that had a feeling of dread. The Golden Knights led and then suddenly, folk hero Devante Smith-Pelly had the equalizer. Seven minutes remaining and Lars Eller buried the golden goal, setting off a tense period of “OMG this is HAPPENING.” The seconds ticked off and my wife, oldest son and I were celebrating. Again, not hooping and hollering on my part, but a big, big smile. Fireworks briefly went off in my Alexandria neighborhood.
The morning after, wearing my Caps throwback jersey, drivers were giving me the thumbs up as I bicycled through the morning mugginess of Crystal City. Co-workers were joyful. The who area seemed joyful, celebrating in unison a championship that had eluded the franchise for over 44 years and the area for 26. Even sitting at home and following along with the watch parties downtown there was a feeling of civic unity unseen since ages past.
The celebration, which seemed to go on all summer, was a glorious bacchanal in full view. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, so great for so many years, finally had their championship. The promise, a long way from that October 2005 night when, clad in bizarre black uniforms, Ovechkin dismounted a section of the glasses seconds into his first shift and scored two goals in 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, was finally fulfilled.