*In all seriousness, Caps fans have paid their dues, going all the way back to a rough expansion that did not go quite like the Bowtie Bill model, up through an oft-forgotten but very good annual Patrick bridesmaid squad during the '80s, on to-- okay-I'll-stop-now-sorry...those who ignore history are doomed to rebuke me...
In the Islanders' favor tonight is that the Capitals are playing back-to-back, our guys may be the better team at the faceoff dot, and Boudreau's boys still routinely play down to their opponents (that's the "hollow" part). Or in last night's case, they took their foot off the gas and allowed the Thrashers back into the game.
In the Capitals' favor is pretty much everything else...
- Their star-studded (yet nameless) top line generally scores at will, barring your average Radek Martinek gold-star night. Our star-hopeful (and also nameless -- ideas, anyone?) top line is the only Islanders line that scores, period.
- Their offensive blueliner decided to win the last meeting by himself. Our offensive blueliner is still searching for his 2008-09 form.
- Their last six games read 6-0-0. Our guys' read 2-2-2.
But this is why they play the games. Katie Strang had some great updates from today's morning skate, (Gordon discloses his starter!) including why Roloson is in the net, why the same lineup as Wednesday (Blake Comeau still in timeout), and why Rob Schremp is a scratch until further notice. Further: quotes about how the Isles will approach the Ovechkin line now that they're on the road -- including using the Tavares line against them. I hope Ovi isn't angry about being held to two shots at the Coliseum. No pressure, Marti; just do like last time is all.
If the Islanders pull this off, well, in the word
s of Ali-G: "Respekt." We've seen that they can be competitive with any team, and we've seen that they can get teams off their game (for 60 minutes? Uh, still writing the code for that). But their odd 2-4-5 record tells us their margin for error is thin even on their best days. Or is it that they've been unlucky and could easily be 5-4-2? (And what is a hockey season if not fuel for debate between the House of Half-Full and the House of Rather-Empty-Actually?)
While I'm not a knee-jerk type of guy, an Islanders win in D.C. would help convince me the tenor of this rebuilding season can steer clear of the "we suck" despair and drive right into "we're building something" hope, through little bits of progress.
I know the roster (and the management that created it) already believe that. But when losses pile up, that self-belief has a way of waning. Stealing victories from heralded opponents, on the other hand, has a way of keeping the long-term goal in focus.
So I want this team to feel together, all year long. I don't want veterans souring on the operation like last year. I don't want us fans to be worrying about if "all the losing" is infecting Josh Bailey or John Tavares or whomever. What I do want is a team that busts its tail with consistency (Outlook: good). A team that has high expectations tempered by awareness of its limitations. A team that does whatever the hell Scott Gordon asks, so that they slowly, steadily figure more things out about themselves and NHL hockey as the season goes on.
Is that too much to ask? (Don't answer that.) But dare I say, there's a chance of us getting that. A big win against a better team tonight or tomorrow would help. As the old man in Slap Shot would travel 15 hours by bus to say: "Let's really try to win this one, guys."
Prediction: Capitals fans still not satiated.
So: Do you believe?