Hoonhout: Why Blaise Pascal would want me to root for Ovechkin and the Caps
Tobias Hoonhout | Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Hello darkness, my old friend.
The Capitals and the Penguins are meeting yet again in the postseason, now for the third year running. And for all the recent regular-season success that my colleague and fellow Caps fan Jack Concannon pointed out last week, Washington should wonder if this matchup is probably over before it even begins.
The Capitals have an atrocious record in the playoffs, and Pittsburgh has been a large reason why. The Caps have made it to the second round seven times in the last 10 seasons, and they have lost each of the previous six times. They’ve met the Penguins 10 times in the postseason, and have lost nine of them — four of which have gone seven games. Pittsburgh has yet to win a Stanley Cup without ousting Washington from the playoffs, including the past two seasons.
But this year, it hasn’t been about the Capitals. No one was expecting much from them after the collapses over the last two years, and even after the team sneakily won the Metropolitan yet again, I wasn’t paying attention. My indifference seemed confirmed when Washington gave away two-goal leads in the first two games of an opening-round matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets — at least the Capitals don’t even have to give any semblance of actually making a run and getting me even remotely emotionally invested.
After that, of course, Washington put Braden Holtby back in net — where he belongs — and promptly rattled off four-straight wins to clinch the series. Monday night’s win was not even close. But what does it matter? The Penguins are waiting.
So here we are again, facing off against Pittsburgh in the second round. But that’s not even the worst part. The very fact that I had no interest in watching the Caps fall short yet again was decided May 10 of last year, on what could have been “the biggest D.C. sports night in forever,” according to fellow D.C. sports fan Dan Steinberg at the Washington Post. Of course, it wasn’t, and I wasn’t interested in having to endure another roller-coaster ride ending in disaster.
But I’m back. Try as I might, I couldn’t resist the fact that however unlikely it may be, there’s still a tiny, oh-so-tiny chance that maybe the Capitals finally find a way to give Alexander Ovechkin a chance at his first Stanley Cup. There’s no question he deserves one, considering how much he has given to the franchise over the course of his career. He once again proved his agelessness by leading the league in goals scored this season, even as we enter the last years of the Ovechkin era.
But there’s also no question of my stupidity. And yet again, the honey was too sweet to resist.
My boss — and diehard Penguins fan — Courtney Becker is, and probably will be, laughing at me for a long time after the Capitals go up 3-0 and then decide they’ve had enough of leading the fans on and drop four-straight games.
But I’m not here for the Capitals. I’m here for Ovechkin. Not only has he been the best goal scorer in the NHL for almost as long as I can remember, but he’s also been incredibly loyal. He’s no Carmelo Anthony, who couldn’t win in Denver, so he decided to go lose in New York and now Oklahoma City. No, Ovechkin has too much integrity for that. And so, despite all the pain it has caused me, I’m back to see the franchise that owes him the most let him down once again.
I’m also not as pessimistic as Concannon, or Lady Antebellum for that matter. Sure, losing sucks. But if you didn’t feel anything, you wouldn’t watch either. Instead, no matter how ready you are to be disappointed, and not without good reason, just think of how much greater just one second-round triumph over the Pittsburgh Penguins would feel.
Because, as Blaise Pascal put it so eloquently, “if you [win], you [win] all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager then, without hesitation.”
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.