WASHINGTON — Amid the emotional swings of the playoff season, from the low of the Capitals’ demise to the high of the Wizards pushing a Game 7 last week, I hadn’t considered one thought.
That some Caps loyalists, who live and die by the hockey calendar, might feel some level of envy if the Wizards are to advance to the third round, something the Capitals haven’t been able to accomplish try after try after try after try after try after miserable try over the past decade.
The Wizards have a chance to vanquish D.C.’s conference final beast once and for all with a win in Boston — something they’ve done neither in this series nor in the past three regular seasons. For most D.C. sports fans, this would be cause for effusive joy.
But a Wizards win Monday night would leave Grant Paulsen of 106.7 The Fan feeling a little uneasy.
“I am going to be elated if the Wizards win tonight,” he told co-host Danny Rouhier. “But I have to say this or I’m being dishonest, so I’m going to. This will piss a lot of people off, probably. A very small part of me, while I’m celebrating and it’s going to be great for D.C., will be a little bit annoyed that it’s the Wizards and not the Capitals.”
“Because the Capitals essentially did everything right for 10 years,” he explained. “The Wizards basically did nothing right for a long, long time over these 10 years, and recently have done more right, but even still, it’s a sport where it’s easier to get to a conference final. It just is.
“Anyone who disagrees with me, I’d love to go out to lunch with you and explain why for an hour and a half. The Wizards getting to a conference final this year, an easier chance to do so than the Caps have ever had at any point during this run basically, because of just the difference in the sports. And a small part of me… I’m going to be thinking, ‘This should be the Capitals.'”
This take isn’t of the roll-out-of-bed variety; a bit of self-reflection seems requisite here.
The Caps have had nine bites of the playoff apple over the past 10 years, and have advanced only as far as the second round in six of those bites.
In that same time frame, the Wizards transitioned from the Gilbert Arenas to the John Wall eras, the former peaking with four straight playoff appearances and the latter extending a two-year playoff drought to five years. Since the start of the 2013-14 season (Wall’s playoff debut), the Wizards have made the payoffs three out of four years and advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinal — but no further — all three times.
In this context, the Wizards seem to be just entering their prime, while the Caps are kicking their legs up toward retirement.
“Almost like if I have two kids,” Paulsen said. “And one, in high school, just worked their butt off and did everything right and got a bad grade on the SATs, so can’t go to the college they want, and the other one, who never applies themselves and never does anything right, but somehow stumbles into a good SAT score.
“It’s not like I’m not gonna be jacked up for this kid going to college — I am — but there’s going to be a small part in the back of my head.”
“I need somebody to advance to a conference final,” Rouhier incised. “Nobody’s even asking for a championship over here!”
“I need someone to break through this absurd ceiling — 66 seasons-and-counting, could be 67 tonight — that will end a D.C. team not being in a conference final, the longest streak by 20-some seasons,” he said. “End.”