Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Nightmare is Over

Mrs. DCO probably put it best when, shortly after Marian Hossa’s wouldn’t-have-counted-anyway last-second shot trickled harmlessly if-tantalizlingly through the crease, she said, “Someone had to lose, and I’m glad it was the Penguins.” With this godsend of a loss, we are now free from the mental anguish that has plagued us all since Pittsburgh threw their final regular season game against the Flyers so they could match up against Ottawa in the first round. Yes, the Senators, who were swept in the regular season by the Capitals long before it was fashionable, and common, to sweep the Senators. The Peguins’ shell-curling-up-in on that last day denied the Caps a chance to again take down Ottawa in four, and left the Chosen One and his lackeys an open door into the second round and beyond.

We watched in horror as we realized we had to first choose between the Penguins and Rangers. After but a few moments, it was clear we had to, extremely grudgingly, root for New York (I still choke on my keystrokes writing that). Once that trial was passed, it was on to perhaps the greatest conundrum in Washington sports outside a Cowboys-Eagles NFC Championship: Flyers vs. Penguins for the opportunity to play for the Cup. Was there more a sinking feeling in recent hockey history as knowing that one of these reviled franchises, one with the aforementioned Anointed One and one with Danny Briere, would be within but four victories of defiling that fine silver chalice? It was enough to (almost) make an optimist’s heart wilt.

But we got through it and, as always, were able to find something positive in the experience. A celebration of a quarter century of Philly sports dominance was worth seeing the Penguins become Eastern Conference champions – provided they lost the next round. And lose they did, despite Sidney Crosby’s “performance for the ages” in Game 3 and Evgeni Malkin’s imminent breakout heralding, accidental game-winning-goal-assisting Game 5. Rescuing us from more Crosby coddling was Conn Smythe winner Henrik Zetterberg, who tied lil’ Sid for the playoff points lead (often scoring goals) and denied him yet another pair of his birthrights: leading the playoffs in points, and possibly the Conn Smythe itself.

The last week has been a hectic week for DCO, with both members immersed in working obligations in the Central timezone, hence the paucity of posting. All is well now, however, and we are ready to bring you another summer of Nats’ successes (on the field and in the draft room), Capitals’ trophy-collecting and roster-strengthening, Redskins’ gearing-up for a season of continuity, Wizards’ doing the same, and United’s staging of another comeback from a less-than-ideal start. That we get to enjoy such a summer without glowing stories of Crosby’s heroic secondary-assist dishing, his superior “vision” for being able to skate into the offensive zone and drop the puck to a defenseman (a move nobody else has ever pulled off, ever), his unprecedented two-goal game in the Finals, and Malkin’s inspiring 3-point Cup Finals performance makes it all the sweeter.

At last, the only hockey news in front of us is good news. Alex Ovechkin will collect a couple of trophies on June 12. Bruce should collect another, and Nick Backstrom is a prime deserving candidate for yet another. Then we wait on imminent signings of next season’s third-line center Sergei Fedorov, and next season’s starting goalie, Cristobal Huet. Still more goodness follows, with a key free agent signing here and there, followed by a training camp featuring a healthy Michael Nylander, Chris Clark, and Brian Pothier, then on to a division-title-defending season culminating in a Cup run, perhaps with a sweep of the Penguins thrown in. It’s (finally) going to be a good summer.

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