After Jason Chimera scored his double OT goal in Game 4, I wanted to think the series was over. Sure, there was the Caps' history of choking away 3-1 leads.
But, really, New York was broken. Right?
Then I decided to turn on the Lightning/Penguins game at noon as a preview to the Rangers/Caps game. I was feeling good. I was also fully expecting Pittsburgh to close out Tampa Bay.
Pittsburgh, as you know, took a 3-1 series lead over Tampa Bay the same night that the Caps went up 3 to 1 on the Rangers. Also, in 2 OT.
Well, let's just say Pittsburgh did not close out Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay kicked the shit out of Pittsburgh 8-2. Their series continues.
And all of a sudden I had doubt. Maybe momentum means nothing. Maybe I was going to go from this really content, relaxed state of being to feeling like Armageddon was upon us again.
Sure, I was used to it. I am a Caps fan after all. But not again. Really? Could the Caps have a chance to go for the jugular and lay another fucking egg?
I mean, the mighty Penguins just did. And, FSN Pittsburgh showed that the Penguins are "a lot and one" in series that they have a 3-1 lead. The Caps were 2-4 in such series going into today's game.
Thankfully, the Caps did not lay an egg. Seemingly, the only point of criticism you could put on them is that they did not play a perfect-perfect game.
Finally though, the Caps showed me they wanted the series. It was by far their most complete effort of the series. Even better than the Game 2, 2-0 win.
They indeed, went for New York's jugular and got it. They didn't fuck around. The game was never really in question. From start to finish, the Caps ran the show.
Washington picks up its 2nd-ever series win after holding a 2-0 series lead. They are now 3-4 when having a 3-1 series lead.
Baby steps, right?
This is quite the welcome change from the utter despair I felt last season after the Caps dropped Game 7 to Montreal. Or, two years ago, when the Penguins demolished the Caps in Game 7.
Or, three years ago when I personally witnessed Joffrey Lupul's Game 7 winner for the Flyers.
And so on and so on.
Even the 2009 series win vs. the Rangers had this weird feeling to it. Why did the Caps go down 3 to 1? Why did it take 7 games? Why did they come out flat in Game 7?
There will be reality checks to be had. The Caps will have to get back to business, to be sure. If you don't think the Caps can improve from this series, think again.
There are 12 more wins to go. The team is only 1/4 of the way to its ultimate goal.
And really, you can't pretend that getting out of the 1st round for the 2nd time since 1998 is akin to winning the Stanley Cup.
The last time it took fewer than 7 games for the Caps to close out a series was against Buffalo in 1998.
Since that series, the Detroit Red Wings have won 16 playoff series in less than 7 games. They have appeared in the Stanley Cup Final 4 times, winning 3 Stanley Cups (including against us in '98).
So, there is more work to be done before we have an impressive playoff resume.
But, in the series that matters most - the one that was most recent - the Caps did have an impressive resume.
Perfect or not, the Caps effort in this series got the job done quickly. It took 5 games + roughly 3 overtime periods. There was only 1 loss.
Only the Detroit Red Wings won their series faster. The Caps have time to rest their bodies. Us fans have time to rest our minds.
There is plenty more emotional trauma to be had. More Mylanta to be consumed. And in the end, we might not be satisfied with the Caps' run for this playoff season.
Who knows what the 2nd round will bring us....
Which team will the Caps play? How will the Caps perform? Will it negate the great feeling of beating the Rangers? Will it take the Caps to the team's 3rd ever conference final?
These are indeed questions to which we need answers.
But not yet.
There are a few days to take another deep breath. To relish in beating a team that beat us 7-0 and 6-0 in the regular season. A team that supposedly was our worst nightmare 1st round matchup.
This series could have gone many ways. Yet, it went our way.
Enjoy the thrill of victory, Caps fans.
See you in the 2nd-round!