Thursday, February 7, 2008

First-Place Reign Continues

Love you, Vancouver. Loved you as a brief honeymoon stopover a year and a half ago, loved you tonight when you took care of Atlanta. Love the Capitals-like third period comeback you pulled off to keep our boys on their well-deserved first-place perch.

Of course, tomorrow night’s game against dethroned Carolina is key. As we’ve previously mentioned, the DCO Optimilitia will be there in full force, along with about three dozen friends and co-workers, watching from section 401 as the team opens up a solid 3-point lead in the Southeast, with a game or two in hand over all pretenders to boot.

Even we optimists are surprised at this rapid rise to the division top. Back in January, when the team crawled back above .500 for the first time since those halcyon days of October, we foresaw a first-place team by mid-February. In retrospect, such a prognostication might qualify as the greatest form of heresy in the eyes of this blog: optimism-hating. Fully a week (or so) before that heralded mid-February, here we are, watching the suddenly frontrunner Caps fend off the teams they’ve crawled past since Thanskgiving.

A three seed and some nice home-ice advantage would look good heading into the playoffs. That six seed opponent is still Pittsburgh right now. That might be enough to bring chilling visions of 3-1 and 2-0 series leads lost (not to mention 4-overtimes and Petr Nedved) to even the most ardent lover of optimism, but as we’ve seen in the two-plus months since the ascension of Bruce Boudreau, this team is different. They don’t choke. They may make it sporting by turning a 4-1 lead into a 4-3 lead before pulling out a win, but a decided lack of choking is evident. They don’t go on prolonged losing streaks, important in not blowing a big playoff series lead. And, as OFB put it, “Heck, they even win shootouts now.”

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