I have watched hockey for as long as I can remember. I have put off homework just to watch games and slept on my couch for countless playoff overtimes; it is such a big part of my life.
When I was a kid, I would watch whatever game my dad put on tv and cheered for the Philadelphia Flyers just like he did (he is probably going to read this, and yes, they still have a special place in my heart, shh).
But as time went on, I learned more about the game and began to watch more games by myself and read up on all the big names I heard being talked about. So about nine years ago, when I was 13 years old, I found my team, the Washington Capitals.
I was obsessed with the team after seeing Alex Ovechkin play; he had such passion and joy (I say had because honestly, he lost that passion for a while there) for the game and I loved it.
I would watch every game that I could and Googled things the commentators spoke about so I could learn more about Ovi and the team.
Fast forward a few years and the team was half decent, but Ovi was hitting a plateau; he wasn’t the same Great 8 he was when I began watching; I had seen him play better.
The team seemed as if they were hitting a rough patch. This was around the time that they had hired Adam Oates as the head coach, and because they were playing terribly *spoiler* he only lasted two seasons.
In those two seasons, they made the playoffs once and were booted out by the New York Rangers in the first round and did not make the playoffs the next year which was the same year Oates was shown the door. This was the same time that Ovi had the oddest end of the season, closing out with a -35 but managed to win the Rocket Richard trophy (for those who don’t know this is the trophy given annually to the leading goal scorer, so you can see why that is so odd).
I stuck with the team through their rough patch, because I had grown so attached to the players and their stories. Honestly though after seeing them at such a low, I wanted to be there for their high.
The team hired Barry Trotz as head coach in the 2014/15 season, who was previously head coach of the Nashville Predators. Trotz was possibly the answer to the team’s prayers; I mean at this point what did they have to lose.
That year they finished second in the Metropolitan division, losing in the second round of the playoffs against to the Rangers. In 2015/16 the Capitals were first in the Metropolitan and lost in the second round to Pittsburgh Penguins – who went on to win the Stanley Cup. And yes, you guessed it in 2016/17 the Capitals were again, first in the Metropolitan division, and yes, they lost again in the second round to the Penguins – who won the cup for the second year in a row.
I think that the team has been pretty solid these past few years. Despite not always playing 100% or winning every game, I believe that the group of guys on the ice wearing that red and white jersey have done a reasonably good job. The goaltending from Braden Holtby has been fantastic, though lately, he has been looking off his game. I think that John Carlson is a great defenseman and that players like Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie make the team greater.
After seeing them be so close to the finals in the past few years, and this past week has seen Ovi score his 600th goal, I am beginning to realize as a fan that the team I grew up with has their window for opportunity quickly closing on them.
This season the team is once again number one in the Metropolitan division and number two in the Eastern Conference.
All I hope is that come June; I can see the team I have praised and followed for the past decade raise that shiny Stanley Cup and be remembered as the 2018 Stanley Cup Champions.