WASHINGTON — The Capitals were again exited from the second round of the playoffs by the Penguins, a 2-0 Game 7 finale being the latest iteration of what’s become an annual rite of passage felt hardest by hockey fans in D.C.
The calls trudged onto the phone lines of 106.7 The Fan’s Grant & Danny program Thursday, each voice sapped of its willpower and replete with morning-after depression.
John in Fredericksburg
“It’s going not that great, obviously,” John answered a common ‘How’s it going?’ salutation. “I’m listening to you guys quantify the depths of my suffering. I don’t know that I’m completely tagging out on sports, but certainly it’s a tough morning. Really, the Game 7 for the Caps, it sort of felt like I knew it was coming on Monday, and that’s a terrible thing to say when we’re halfway through the third period up 5-0.
“I’m looking back, I’m seeing Game 2 we got smacked around 6-2. We’re up 5-0, let’s just smack ’em one more time. Fans are streaming out of [PPG Paints Arena]. They’re leaving. They’re heading home. It’s been quiet for periods. And then they just kind of tap one in and then the fans hear the cheering, they turn around. I start seeing yellow jerseys stream back in and suddenly they’re just singing. They’re singing.
“I don’t even know what they’re singing and they tap another goal in. It kind of swung in that moment for me of we’re up 5-0, the Caps are standing tall, they’re shutting down the team and then their shoulders are stagging a bit like, ‘Oh, well, we’ve got to get on a plane. Time to take that 5-0 and just flip it around a script and, I don’t know, we’ll just see.'”
Calvin in Rockville
“This isn’t conjecture and I’m definitely a fan of The Fan, but I am done with D.C. sports,” Calvin divulged. “From now on to this point for the rest of my life, I will have zero expectations for all the teams in this town. I’m tired of being the regular season champs. I’m tired of being the offseason champs. I’m tired of winning off the field. I’m just done. I mean, I have no expectations for any of these teams. Now, granted, I’m a sports fan — I’ll watch the teams because they’re the local teams in this area, but I’m done. I have no expectations.”
Asked if he’d still attend games, Calvin said, “It’s the day after disaster and of course we have a lot of things to think about, but right now at this moment, my passion will need to be built up and it will be a very slow and painful process, but like I said, I’m tired of being Charlie Brown and getting the football pulled from under me.”
Sonny in Clifton
“So I’ve been a season-ticket holder for three years and it’s the same script,” Sonny said. “We do well in the regular season, and one thing or another, something crazy happens in the playoffs where we lose. And it’s just really frustrating that, you know, investing a lot of money and time into the team and the end product is just garbage. A dumpster fire, essentially.”
Norman in Alexandria
“It’s a dark morning and it’s appropriate that it’s raining,” Norman said. “But I got to tell ya, I really did love the team that was assembled this year. It’s just heartbreaking that the nucleus of that team didn’t pull it together. But I really do think that it comes down to not the talent, because the team is laden with talent, it comes down to the heart that they had. It didn’t seem that when the marbles were down, they didn’t put it together, they didn’t put that extra effort in there, they didn’t really make the push.
“It really comes from the leadership and we can only change the coach so many times. I think Barry’s doing a great job, but Ovi is out there and he’s the one that the players are following. And you look at him and he does the Rocket Richard, he wins the single awards and he does a fantastic job. He sets up in his office, he does the one-timer, but he’s flat on his feet for two-thirds of the time that he’s out there and that’s the example that the captain, the man wearing the ‘C’ on that jersey, leading the team is setting for the rest of the team.”
And then Norman uttered something quite unique for a Capitals fan, something which would have been considered sacrilege at an earlier point.
“And you compare that with what you have with Sidney Crosby,” he said. “He’s a 200-foot player, the guy’s busting his balls… excuse me, busting his suspenders to get to the puck, trips over the goalie’s stick and he busts his head right into the wall. And he gets up. I’m not a Sidney fan, but you know what? It’s that mentality that is going to be a Stanley Cup winner.”
It’s a dark, damp day in the nation’s capital and, for the second straight year, Sidney Crosby’s Penguins are going to the Eastern Conference Finals while the Capitals, for the umpteenth time in the Alex Ovechkin era, are staying home.