Editor, White Cover Magazine
I’ve always felt that the worst thing the Washington Capitals could do was to stop being the Washington Capitals.
This didn’t prevent them from doing so, however, but it was tragic the way the Beltway’s best abandoned their previously terrifying identity, pre-2011: fast-paced and all offensive, all the time.
Led by Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, the Caps were pay-per-view worthy content. They were more fun than others like them, even the Blackhawks and the Penguins, and they were easier to cheer for, too. For whatever reason, Ovi and his Caps existed outside the mainstream, an impressive feat for anything from Washington, D.C.
Then, the Capitals blundered a first-round series to the eighth seeded Montreal Canadiens. Instead of doing the Detroit thing and preaching patience, the Capitals panicked. They decided that defence was more important than offence, and they let their captain — Ovi — confuse himself and spin himself around in circles until they hadn’t just lost the look and the attack that made them so horrific an opponent, but they had lost their footing as a legit Stanley Cup contender.
Even last year’s second round appearance seemed like a fluke that was due more to the parity of the 2012 playoffs than the Capitals, themselves.
This year, things got worse. Washington stumbled so poorly out of the gate, Winnipeg was on its way to the playoffs and Ovechkin was the NHL’s version of finding The Godfather in a K-Mart $5 movie bin.
He was a has been. So was Backstrom. So was 2012 rookie sensation Braden Holtby. So was everything red, white, and blue.
Well, maybe the Capitals figured it out. Maybe all it took was for them to go walk about. You know, get lost in the woods with a volleyball until they were rescued by The Goonies (sorry to muddle movie references there).
Now, Ovechkin has jettisoned to second in the NHL’s goal-scoring race. Backstrom’s 34 assists are third to only Sidney Crosby and Martin St. Louis. Holtby is now a sophomore sensation. The Capitals, as well, have climbed to the top of the Southwest Division, and most of their wins have come against divisional rivals.
Supporting cast mates like Troy Brouwer and Mike Ribeiro are firing on all cylinders, and defencemen John Carlson and Mike Green could be headed to the Olympics in Twenty-Fourteen.
What’s more, the Capitals were buyers at this year’s trade deadline, even after Ribeiro rumours were circling since the season restarted in January. Sure, you can call them crazy to dealing Filip Forsberg to Nashville, but Martin Erat gives the Caps a serious and sudden boost of offence, and GM George McPhee has made it clear that he plans to watch his Capitals play the last game of the season.
They may not finish this regular season atop the Eastern Conference, but there’s something eerily similar about Washington in 2013 and Los Angeles in 2012.
A year ago, we all thought the Kings were going to deal captain Dustin Brown. Three months later, he was hoisting the Stanley Cup.
The way Ovechkin’s playing — and the way Crosby’s teeth shot out of his mouth — it could be deja vu in a different time zone this June.