Do or die.
Win or go home.
Ovechkin versus Crosby.
Capitals versus Penguins.
The two best words in all of sports: Game 7.
On Wednesday night, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins will square off in a Game 7 to determine who advances to the Eastern Conference Finals.
For the Caps, this is the most important game in the Alexander Ovechkin era, if not the entire history of the franchise. Washington is one game away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1998, when they eventually lost in the Stanley Cup Finals.
It’s only fitting that the Caps take on their arch nemesis and reigning, defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in a Game 7.
Early on in the series, it looked like the Caps would come up short yet again in the playoffs, but as the saying goes, it’s not over until it’s over.
Washington was facing a 3-1 series deficit heading into the do-or-die Game 5 at home. In the third period, the Caps found their offensive groove and pulled out a 4-2 victory to keep the season alive. That offensive output carried over to Game 6, where the Caps dominated the Pens with a 5-2 beat down.
Now, the Capitals have the chance to exercise their playoff demons and dethrone the Penguins, at home, in Game 7.
Here is a brief history of the Capitals playoff failures in the Ovechkin era:
‘07/’08: First season the Caps made the playoffs since drafting Ovechkin first overall in 2004. Washington lost in the first round to the Philadelphia Flyers.
‘08/’09: Blew a 2-0 series lead to the Penguins in the second round. Pittsburgh went on to win the Stanley Cup.
‘09/’10: Caps won the Presidents’ Trophy, but lost in the first round to the 8-seeded Montreal Canadians.
‘10/’11: Swept in the second round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
‘11/’12: Lost in seven games in the second round to the New York Rangers.
‘14/’15: Blew a 3-1 series lead to the Rangers and lost in seven games.
‘15/’16: Lost to the Penguins in seven games in the second round. Pittsburgh went on to win the Cup yet again.
Wednesday night, the Caps can put the past completely behind them and take the pivotal next step. It’s either going to be a momentous occasion, or another year of let downs for Washington D.C. sports teams. It’s either going to be a monumental victory or yet another season that ends prematurely.
If history is any indicator, the Caps season could come crashing down once again. Pittsburgh is 3-0 in Game 7s versus the Capitals, with two Game 7 wins coming in the Ovechkin era. Another indicator that isn’t in the Caps favor is the fact that Pittsburgh is 5-0 all-time on the road in Game 7s.
One piece of history that is on the Washington’s side is Justin Williams. In seven career Game 7s, Williams is 7-0 with seven goals and seven assists. For the sake of the Capitals and their fan base, they better hope Williams’ record in Game 7s remains unblemished.
Washington has the momentum. Kris Letang has been out with an injury for months now. Sidney Crosby has been dealing with a concussion since Game 3. Marc Andre-Fleury is in net for the Penguins, which could be a good or bad thing. The Penguins offense has diminished over the last two games. This is where the Caps need to take advantage.
Alex Ovechkin is one of the best players to ever play in the NHL, yet only one thing is missing; the elusive first Stanley Cup. If Ovechkin and company are able to exercise the playoff demons, he will take a huge step in how his career is perceived. Another loss could continue to be derailing and detrimental for Ovechkin and this franchise.
It all goes down one way or another Wednesday night at the Verizon Center when the puck drops at 7:30 EST.
Buckle up, because this should be a game for the ages.