Ok, brothers and sisters, I never thought that I’d see these days.

When a Washington Capital is deemed, on a national broadcast, unequivocally, the game’s greatest player “by far.” 

When the Caps are near the top of the heap in the Eastern Conference, and amazingly within striking distance of first place, just seven points out.  Even within range, though barely, of the Presidents’ Trophy.  Just one of the awards yet to be earned by this franchise.  (Keeping our eyes and heart on the real prize, of course.)

When the team with a young corps of mesmerizing talent steamrolls to the best record in franchise history after 60 games.

And when one of the great hockey scribes south of the border, Kevin Paul Dupont, declares that “Ovechkin’s gap over Crosby will only grow.”

nhl.com

nhl.com

This excerpt from the TSN lead story today summarizes the stunning reversal of fortune, that you’ve all seen but love to read in print over and over:

The Capitals are 3-0 against the Penguins this season and 4-1-1 since Bruce Boudreau became coach 15 months ago. Before Boudreau, Washington was 1-7-1 in its previous nine games in the series, and Crosby had all the bragging rights.

Now the Capitals are thinking Stanley Cup, while the Penguins – last year’s losing Cup finalist – would not make the playoffs if the post-season started now. They fell to 2-1-1 under interim coach Dan Bylsma, who was promoted after Michel Therrien was fired a week earlier.

Coach Gabby on Crosby’s reactions on the ice to his, and the Penguins’, sudden inability to dominate the play on the ice (if not also the passion in the seats) in the Nation’s Capital:

“I think he got frustrated because he wasn’t getting the freedom he’s had in this building before.”

Color me stunned.  Absolutely stunned. 

What’s more, Coach knows to keep the foot on the gas pedal, and his comments post-game suggest a healthy appreciation of the franchise’s, and the fan base’s, need for vindication:

“We’ve won three [in a row against them],” Boudreau said. “I don’t think it’s changing unless we won seven or eight in a row against them. With those two guys [Crosby and Evgeni Malkin], it’s going to be tough to do.”

Agreed.  It will take many more convincing victories, and their humiliating defeats, to “even the score.”  Continuing on March 8. 

Still, is a playoff victory necessary?  The disparity which is most glaring, and which demands vengeance, is the one regarding playoff series wins:  six of them for the Penguins, in seven playoff meetings between the two clubs.

Or can Caps Nation be content with a regular-season sweep that will help to bury the Rust City team and eliminate them from the playoffs? 

In addition to stunned, I’m still scarred as well from those years of playoff torment.  I can’t deny it.  I crave to witness further suffering for the Penguins fan base, enough to cause them to distance themselves from the team and the game.  Let the seeds of apathy and resignation begin to take root.

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