“Fate Loves the Fearless”

In the NBA, home teams seem to win game 7s approximately 102 percent of the time, which is partly why life here has seemed so special the past couple of days. We have no idea what will happen in our game 7 tonight. We never do with decisive games in our sport. A good many folks seemed to believe that the Phoenix Coyotes had the upper hand heading into last night’s game 7 in the desert. Final, Wings 6, Desert Dogs 1.

And this is something to cherish and celebrate about our sport. Game 7s in hockey are extraordinary events. We don’t particularly like them when they occur as they have with circumstances such as those in this Caps-Habs series, but once the decisive game arrives, it affords an aura unlike anything else in our sport.

Game 7 bounces and deflections are unlike those for any preceding game of a series. Its officiating is uniquely under the microscope. Star performers carry a distinctive burden in a game 7. Role players can become lifetime heroes for a city from but a single shift.

Ticketholders are especially privileged for a game like tonight’s. It’s been special all season long to hold a ticket to a Capitals’ game in Chinatown. To possess one for game 7 against storied Montreal tonight . . .

* * * * *

What was most striking about Kettler Capitals Complex at Tuesday’s lunch hour Caps’ skate was that media far and away outnumbered fans in the stands. It was as if vultures had arrived upon a carcass. The press were four and five deep around Bruce Boudreau near the skate’s conclusion, and being at the back of the pack, I could make out only about 40 percent of what the coach said. But in that moment I became convinced that there was a remarkable irony associated with covering hockey on this particular springtime Tuesday.

There was a unique confluence of concern among media covering the Caps and the fanbase following the team yesterday: just what was the mental makeup of the club in this most dire of circumstances, they all were wondering? Dozens of microphones and cameras were pressed before a dozen different Capitals’ voices at midday Tuesday, but the pursuit of this storyline seemed to me a wholly hopeless endeavor. There are 20 or so individuals earning impressive paychecks for their involvement with a winter’s game in our city at this moment, and their collective experience at the end of this April is uniquely isolated. Even the team’s owner and general manager are to no small degrees isolated from the fate soon to befall the Washington Capitals. If they are genuinely nervous or apprehensive or giddy with glee at the challenge of tonight, most assuredly they are not sharing such sentiments with the outer world. Not even with their spouses. That’s the room within hockey’s culture.

I understood why the media were assembled Tuesday in the mass of humanity and equipment it was, but I wondered how many of them realized how pointless their storyline pursuits were on this particular day. I couldn’t help but notice that the Capitals’ Mike Vogel was most often apart from the media scrum enveloping Bruce Boudreau, and instead fixing his gaze on the handful of players remaining on the post-practice ice. He knew.

* * * * *

Tonight is special most especially for Alexander Ovechkin, our still-new captain. If the Capitals fail tonight a most unwelcomed association will cloak the Gr8 like a wet blanket in a blizzard. It wasn’t that big a deal when his Capitals lost game 7 against the Flyers here two springs back — that game had officiating issues, and that series followed a late March and early April standings surge (the Capitals were literally in a lose-and-you’re-out whirlwind every night they played for weeks) that largely overshadowed the loss to the Flyers. Something special on ice was forming in Washington then.

In the opening round of last postseason it was Sergei Fedorov who delivered game 7 heroics for the red-sweatered against the Rags. And then in the very next round in another game 7 early on Alexander Ovechkin had a clean breakaway against Marc-Andre Fleury, one he missed. Many of us today still wonder if the outcome that night against Pittsburgh might have been different had Ovi put that puck past Fleury.

Alexander Ovechkin doesn’t want the experience that awaits him with North American media were his team and he to fail tonight. He’ll want to return home to Moscow on Thursday and remain there. Bruce Boudreau would have it tough, and the remainder of spring and all summer for George McPhee would be supremely sour, but their experiences would pale in comparison to those of the captain anointed hockey’s Savior in this town.

* * * * *

More than a few Caps’ fans last December expressed support for Brooks Laich’s candidacy to be the next captain of the Caps once Chris Clark was dealt. I thought about that yesterday moments after he met media after practice, and asked about the pressure associated with a game 7 said, “Fate loves the fearless.”

That’s most definitely the attitude I’d have a warrior-leader take into tonight.

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This entry was posted in Alexander Ovechkin, Media, Mike Vogel, Montreal Canadiens, Morning cup-a-joe, National Hockey League, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to “Fate Loves the Fearless”

  1. This is well said and a great perspective. I really enjoy and appreciate your writing on the blog.

    I’m not sure if the Caps are still a year away from where they want to be right now. Even with the changes at the trade deadline, we are still suspect in the back end of our team – I worry less about the goalie situation (although Monday night can be a cruel reminder of what a hot goalie can do) but it really does rest with our blueline. Which to me, is not where it needs to be. I’m not going to point out names but you probably know who they are.

    There is an old hockey adage that says “before you can win the cup you have to learn how to lose” (or something like that) – Losing this year would be a real buzzkill – but maybe the season came a bit too easy. It’s food for thought, but that’s about it.

    It would make my year to see the cup lifted in Washington this year. Before we do that though we need to win tonight. It really is a very short season.

    Thanks

  2. Trevor says:

    Well written as always, I’m both jealous of people with tickets to tonight’s game, and would dread being there in person myself!

    That said I’ll be out enjoying a pint tonight in my Fedorov jersey hoping to see another “4million$ goal” Here is to hoping for a great game whichever way it goes!

  3. Marjolaine says:

    Safe to say the Habs fans and the Caps fans have one thing in common: we’re all nervous.

  4. Alex says:

    This is truly a great perspective and I am as nervious as them come. I really enjoy and appreciate your writing. I believe a win is close at hand if we can just overcome our own history. It is not our side.

    The Capitals will play their eighth Game 7 in franchise history. Seven of the previous eight have been played on home ice. We have only won 2. 3 of the losses are against Pittsburgh.

    2009 vs Pittsburgh – L, 2-6
    2009 vs Rangers – W, 2-1
    2008 vs. Philadelphia – L, 2-3 (OT)
    1995 at Pittsburgh – L, 0-3
    1992 vs. Pittsburgh – L, 1-3
    1988 vs. New Jersey – L, 2-3
    1988 vs. Philadelphia – W, 5-4 (OT)
    1987 vs. NY Islanders – L, 2-3 (4 OT)

    At least we are not playing Pittsburgh. Tonight is the night! Here is to hoping for a great game and Let’s Go CAPS.

  5. chris says:

    I was at that ’87 four overtime loss to the Isles.Hopfully my feeling tomorrow morning won’t be equal to easter monday that year…Go Caps…

  6. Habitual says:

    Well it would be nice to see the Caps win so they could go on to play the Pens, However the Habs will continue their streak of Madness.

    The Caps are Burnt out coming into Game 7 as we have noticed their Capability of playing together as a Team is not there!!

    Good luck Caps you will need it tonight as the Habs will be there in your face.

  7. Bob D says:

    Who Dares Wins.

    Motto of: Special Air Service Regiment (S.A.S.) of the British Army.
    ‘Habitual’ (5) can burn in hell where he will reside with all the New York Yankees and Montreal Canadiens fans.

  8. Hittman says:

    It would be nice to get the first two goals for a change tonight. It’d also be nice if the missing persons for the Caps could somehow summon their season-long magic.

  9. Let The Games Begin says:

    Opportunities multiply as they are seized.
    The Art of War

  10. OvieTracker says:

    Memo to Caps: Carpe diem. Seize the day. This is your best chance because the time is NOW. Make the most of this opportunity. Be a team of warriors tonight.

  11. OvieTracker says:

    Epilogue: I am so totally bummed out right now I’m speechless. However, as disappointed and frustrated as I am, I congratulate the Habs for their heart, desire and will to take this opening round series. They deserved the victory.

  12. Habitual says:

    Where does one start The Habs took it to them the Bottom team has eliminated the so called Top team.The Capitals Burnt out in the First Round.

    I can see alot of changings in the next season for the Caps.First of all Ovie needs to be Replaced as Captain maybe Brooks Laich could handle the job which was mentioned?? Yes the Caps finnished Top Team but it takes a Team Effort to carry on and a Captain to lead them to Victory.

    Well my hat goes off to the Habs Great Execution to come back after trailing 3-1 but to all you Cap Fans the Pens will get the Job done.

    Maybe the Caps Fans disagree for the goal that was not allowed BUT!!!!! Millions of viewers also witnessed the replay so lets not go on about it,Tomorrow Ovie will be getting ready to go back to Moscow.

    The Caps have set a record tonight for loosing the most Games on home ice in NHL History well done Caps!!

  13. Marjolaine says:

    @Bob D: Wow, Bob. Not nice to want a fellow human being to burn in hell.

    @ Ovietracker: You are a gentleman for writing such a diplomatic comment. We all know what it’s like to loose. It could very well have been the Habs tonight and I would have needed a spatula to lift me (well, maybe not as we were underdogs and did so well in the series that I would still have been proud with a loss, proud but sad). It sucks, I know it. I hate the feeling. I’ve been a Habs fan since I was 7 (back in ’69) and watched my family go crazy for every win. I’m truly sorry for your loss.

    @ mcbride: if you’re out there. Sorry you lost too, and it’s really not nice to visit a Habs blog and leave dirty, insulting comments about our country. I hope you had a safe business trip to Philly.

  14. OvieTracker says:

    @MARJOLAINE: For the record, I’m female so I suppose my post makes me a gracious lady. And maybe that explains why I’m such an emotional wreck right now. Thanks for your kind words.

    BTW, I’d like to know your gender too if you want to share.

  15. Marjolaine says:

    I’m a woman as well, doesn’t my name give it away?? 🙂 I really am sorry. I hate that feeling of loosing when you come so close. As happy as I am for us, I’m equally that sad for you all. The Caps played an awesome game, so many chances, just couldn’t crack the Hab’s defense code.

    Also, I read an interview on NHL.com with Ovie and I couldn’t help feeling for the guy. Stupid questions…

  16. OvieTracker says:

    MARJOLAINE, I thought you might be female but didn’t want to make any assumptions based solely on your name. Internet usernames can be tricky and assumptions sometimes wrong.

    BTW, thanks for empathizing with us Caps fans, and also coming to Ovie’s defense after he had to address the stupid–and sometimes insulting–questions from the Canadian media vultures following game 7.

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