Now that the Blue Jackets have officially been eliminated, the final of the Metropolitan Division was what everyone knew before the playoffs started. The Penguins and Capitals will begin a blockbuster series in Washington later this week.
The Pens have won five Stanley Cups, and they've gone through the caps for each one of them. The caps have won zero, and the pens consistently suck their blood. Pittsburgh's drive for a third Stanley Cup in a row is now back through D.C., and the search for Capitals for playoff redemption is in oncoming traffic. Again.
The Capitals have generally experienced a tormented playoff life, but no one has done more harm to their hopes and dreams than the penguins.
The Pens and Caps were both dominant regular season teams in this era. In fact, they were the dominant regular season teams. Go back to 2008, the first year in which the Alex Ovechkin-led capitals made the playoffs. The penguins have been in the postseason every year since then and Washington all but one. The Penguins have won a league-best 51
In the same span they have met three times in the playoffs. The capitals were all three times the higher-placed team and it did not matter. They lost two Game 7 at home, either as a blowout or shutout. They lost a 6 over-time match 6 to get another elimination after coming back from 0-3 to tie it late. The penguins have their number, and everyone knows, especially the capitals. (For long-time fans, this has been around for years, with the pens 9-1 in series against the caps of all time, dating back to a five-game victory in the Patrick Division semi-final in 1991.)
Whether the penguins were The films of the capitals or the capitals have simply failed themselves, is an open question. They have suffered other devastating playoff losses and their fans can rattle the names of their tormentors: Sidney Crosby three times, but also Joffrey Lupul # 08; Jaroslav Halak # 39; and Henrik Lundqv three times.
The Penguins have a special place in Capitals fans and mainstream understanding of Washington's playoff problems. One reason for this is that Crosby and Ovechkin joined the league together in 2005, and although they were both generation superstars, only one of them has won in the spring. Russian national teammates Evgeni Malkin and Ovechkin have a hotter personal history behind them that adds to the excitement:
The capitals will not say what everyone else thinks.
The three series of Penguins winning in the Crosby-Ovechkin era came in 2009, 2016 and 2017, always in the second round, always when Washington had home-ice advantage, and always a few weeks before that Penguins won the Stanley Cup.
The capitals will bombard media questions over these parallels over the next few days. They're basically going to say, "We're not thinking about what happened last year or the year before or all the years before." They will not say that there have been structural or imperceptible things that have kept them from beating this team before.
The capitals should not think of the past. The past was very bad for her. Of the long series # 39, there are only a few players left in each team, but the cores of both teams are similar to those they have made in the past two years. The more the captains think about how they got five points ahead of the penguins, defeating two out of four beats this year, and the less they think about repeated playoff failures, the better.
None of this should be significant. They are equal this year, as they were at the top of all other playoff meetings. But the capitals have at the wrong moment burned against the penguins so many times that they will not prove that they are over it until they win a series against them. When they returned from a 3-1 deficit last year to play a game 7 in D.C. to force, it seemed as if it was the moment. Then they were excluded from the (talented) goalkeepers of the penguins and their time in the wilderness continued.
If it is not now for these capitals, it is not clear when it will be.
The penguins were the 19459009 much better than the capitals over the years, except for the annoying point Crosby's boys have won all these series and all those cups. Again this year, there is parity in the series and Malkin's lack of health – he missed the last game of the first round – could give the capitals a clear advantage. You have a chance as always.
The capitals have not revised their roster after earlier disappointments with the penguins, and their key contributors except John Carlson are all under contract beyond this year. But three defeats to a fierce rival in three years is a lot, and the kernel the capitals are building around Ovechkin is not getting any younger. There is only so much time to get over this hump.