This week has been one for reflection and enjoying sanity. The weather is finally getting nice here in the Midwest. One can now go outside without wearing a jacket. Tonight was beautiful as a matter of fact.
I enjoyed one of my staple low-budget cigars. I had the pleasure of listening to a decent baseball announcer on the radio - as that season is now underway.
As much as I wish I was listening to Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler from my Nats, it is Cincinnati Reds announcer Marty Brennaman painting the picture. To his credit, he is damn good. A legend, in fact.
It gives me time to reminisce about the greatness that is Ron Weber. And wish that Ted Leonsis recognized how mediocre Steve Kolbe is - and what fans miss out on by being stuck with radio mediocrity.
I graciously indulge all of my friends who care about the Masters. Rather than get belligerent, question their manhood, or talk about how worthless watching golf on TV is, I just let it go.
All of this serenity, for a die-hard Capitals fan, is perfectly acceptable during the final week of the regular season: To listen to a secondary sport. To listen to a baseball team that I don't even follow. To look back. To be nice.
To do things that are relaxing. Peaceful. Therapeutic. Calming. And to get a preview of what the summer will be like after hockey season is finished.
Thankfully, gone are the days in which the Capitals don't make the playoffs or have to fight until the end to make them. They've known for a while that they'll be participating in the second season.
We can wind-down the season by looking down on teams like Toronto and Florida.
We can wish them the best with their rebuilds and tell them to take notes for us on which golf courses they enjoy.
The #1 seed in the East belongs to DC again. It is just a matter of whether the Caps play the Carolina Hurricanes or the New York Rangers in the first round.
It is just a matter of making sure no Caps player dies of a cocaine overdose in South Beach this weekend.
But really, there is no business to attend to this week. This week, we can take off. This week we can take one, final deep breath. This week, we can be clean-shaven.
Next week, however, is a different story.
Next week is what we live for. Next week, the Caps have something to prove. Next week, the blood gets pumping and we can't even sit still.
Every time the puck is in the offensive zone, I eagerly sit on the edge of my seat ready to scream incessantly if/when the Caps score.
Every time the puck is in the defensive zone, I prepare for imminent doom. And God help my blood pressure if a Caps playoff game goes to overtime.
Yes, it is that intense. Nothing - and I mean absolutely nothing sports related - comes anywhere close to the intensity that is playoff hockey.
It is truly the best sporting playoff in the world. Throw away the razors. Suck up the pain. Accept that it will take years off your life.
It's time for the best time of the year.
I always have a love/hate relationship with what playoff intensity does to my body. I honestly can barely handle it. It truly is gut-wrenching.
But, I'm sick and damn tired of taking the easy way out.
The only thing worse than dealing with playoff intensity is that anti-climatic feeling one gets when the Caps playoff stint lasts 2 weeks instead of 2 months.
Division titles haven't done much good. The #1 seed wasn't any help. Presidents' trophy? Vancouver can have it! 2-0 series leads? 3-1 series leads?
Dale Hunter's goal vs. Philly and Sergei Fedorov's goal vs. New York are the GWGs from the only two Game 7's the Caps have won at home in franchise history!
Both in the first round, mind you.
As much as I'd like to think the Caps are a better #1 seed than they were last year, really who knows? Yes, they've dealt with adversity. They've changed their system. They made improvements at the deadline.
But anything can happen in the playoffs. And if it's a bad thing, it normally finds a way to happen to the Capitals.
The Hurricanes are playing good hockey right now. And while the Rangers may be different than when they drubbed the Caps 7-0 and 6-0, they've shown a lot of fight as well.
So the Caps could be done in one round again. And that would be catastrophic. Or, they could overcome team history and win the whole damn thing. Or anything in between.
I'm not trying to show off my ability to pussyfoot around the subject of making a playoff prediction. I'm merely highlighting that it is truly anybody's guess as to what happens to the Caps this postseason.
That's what makes it so exciting. And dreadful. And awesome. And painful. And intense.
For now, I relax. I enjoy the peace and quiet that is the final days before the playoffs. I enjoy baseball on the radio.
I enjoy the weather. I enjoy looking in the mirror and seeing the skin on my face. I enjoy normal blood pressure.
Next week, it will be time to Rock the Red.