That was one of the most bizarre endings to a championship game that I’ve seen in any sport. The Hawks scored twice in 17 seconds in the final minute plus to clinch the cup… What?
For nearly two months I’ve been in a depressed mindset as a Caps fan. That’s just the consequence of getting blasted out of your own building by a mediocre team in game 7. However, watching another team hoist the cup snapped me out of it, and I’ll tell you why.
Before the playoffs started, as the Caps were storming up the standings to get into the playoff picture, my mantra was just “get there and see what happens.” The reasoning behind this was on display for the last month or so.
Boston was battling identity issues for most of the regular season, which led to many discounting their contender status. Boston was down 4-1 in Toronto in game 7. Obviously, they kept trucking and made it to the finals.
Chicago was the top team for all of the regular season, but it experienced some serious adversity in the playoffs. After not looking sharp against Minnesota in the first round, it found itself down 3-1 to Detroit in the second round. Chi-town rallied to win three straight games, and eventually the Hawks were in the finals.
Turn back the clock thirty minutes (from present time) and the Hawks were pulling their goalie and desperately looking to avoid going back to Chicago for game 7. We all know now how that turned out, which brings me back to D.C.
As bad as that game 7 in Verizon Center looked, as bad as it felt to watch the helplessly mediocre (save for Henrik (pun intended)) Rangers clown the boys in red, it could have been different. One deflection here or there can decide a series, and the odds say that the Caps could’ve won that series just as easily as they lost it.
We will get into Washington’s free agency strategy this summer in the coming weeks, but all of the above serves as a reminder that continuity prevails. Sometimes it’s just a matter of making the playoffs and rolling the dice.
That’s not to say the Caps don’t need to tweak and add things. The blue-line is still a major concern, for me at least. Defense in general, actually. The top two finalists for the Selke trophy were battling in the finals, not the top two Hart finalists. The good thing about defense is that it is largely effort based. Yes, it takes IQ to read and react defensively to what is happening on the ice, but for the most part it’s just willpower.
The bench bosses for Boston and Chicago have been tenured for a while now, and so here’s to hoping that Oates can continue to grow as a coach to take the Caps into late May and (in this year’s case) June.
I don’t think many people watching tonight’s game 6 of Stanley Cup Finals thought the Cup was going to be handed out after 58 minutes and 44 seconds of game time, but that’s hockey.
Stay hungry, D.C.