Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Best Just Can't Win (or Steal Our Stars)

It was just a few days ago that we were marveling at the Capitals accounting for a full 22.2% of the Ottawa Senators’ losses this season. It was a magnificent number, a beautifully and coldly objective summation of the dominance of the East’s “worst” over the East’s “best.” The 8-6 win in Ottawa lifted the Caps out of the East’s cellar, and they found themselves at the charter members of Teams Who Have Beaten the Senators More Than Once.

How much more grand and absurd is it, then, that we see our Caps now accounting for a full 30% of the mighty Senators’ defeats. Now they stand as the lone team (probably for a while) to beat the Sens thricely (and convincingly). As in that wondrous Eastern Conference semi-final series of ten years ago, the location does not matter. Ottawa, Washington; the end result is a Caps’ victory (we can only hope to see the Senators again in the spring).

Those who were able to tear away from the end of the Mike-Emrick-hearts-Sidney-Crosby-and-finds-him-flawless game on NBC (my favorite moment: “What a move in tight quarters by Crosby”, as two Sabres skate out of the corner after relieving Sid of the puck) saw what has become a typical Capitals-Senators affair. Those same fans also saw that 2-0 deficits are completely undaunting to these rising Caps. Just like a few weeks ago against the Rangers, Bruce II’s boys shook off a shaky start and coolly worked their way back into the game and then ahead in it.

The standings aren’t so depressing to look at anymore, are they? Sure, there’s still only one team between the Caps and the bottom of the list in the East, but look at that division lead just six little points away. Look at that fourth playoff seed only eight points away. It’s a Redskins-like run towards the playoffs, though the Caps should be in position well before the last day of the regular season. Even those always-flawed ESPN power rankings found something non-snarky to say about Washington this week, even as they continue to rank them below the likes of the Edmonton Oilers.

Those still dealing in the market of snark and smarm, however, are those who feel Alex Ovechkin should bolt the Caps after this year and join a “real” hockey town. On Frozen Blog cites the New York Post and Ottawa Sun as two recent perpetrators (there are many others, mostly those calling for a move to Toronto, whose team lost a memorable 7-1 game in October, or Montreal). OFB correctly notes that such a market could not be the Canadian capital, as the Senators are apparently utterly incapable of defeating this lowly team from a lowly NHL backwater.

Seriously, all this Ovechkin-belongs-in-(insert “traditional” hockey market) is getting annoying. Aside from the fact – a fact that’s pointless to talk about or debate due to its degree of complete factualness – that Ovie is going nowhere, it’s strikingly arrogant. Who are the Don Cherrys of the world to declare which talent is fit for which club? Should our “non-traditional” markets be destined to play the Generals to Canada’s the NHL’s “elite” Globetrotters. Much has already been written/blogged on Cherry’s doubless bitterness/astonishment/nonplussed-ness at seeing the “inferior” Caps best one of his beloved “real” teams, so no need to continue on that tangent here. Suffice it to say he seems to be one of the more prominent voices calling for an Ovechkin defection to the North. I know they’d all love to see Maple Leafs vs. Oilers every year in the Cup finals, with the likes of the Panthers, Capitals, Lighting, and Hurricanes serving as defacto farm teams to develop and ship off talent. Wait a minute, those are four “non-real” hockey markets that have produced Stanley Cup finalists within the last 12 years. Maybe we shouldn’t contract their teams and plunder their best players after all.

Got off-topic there. The Caps continue their march to the playoffs, with a not-leaving-anytime-soon Alex Ovechkin. End of story.

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