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So maybe this isn’t the year. What did you expect? A series sweep? Over the most storied franchise in pro hockey? Seasoned Caps fans should know better.

I remember my first hockey bloopers videotape. The hilarious compilation of goofy clips devoted an entire section to the ups and downs of the Washington Capitals.

Remember 1987? The Caps raced out to a 3-1 series lead over the New York Islanders, only to lose the next two straight games. (Sounding familiar?) Then, in the fourth overtime of a deciding Game 7 at home at the Cap Centre in Landover—the legendary “Easter Epic“—the Isles’ Pat LaFontaine finally slaps one past stunned Caps goalie Bob Mason. Game. Series. Over. Rod Langway & Co. hit the links.

Will hockey history repeat itself? The deciding Game 7 tonight. At home. At Verizon Center. The psyche of an entire bandwagoning city is on the line. 

WaPo‘s Thomas Boswell, for one, is “sick and damn tired of the same Caps choke story.” He writes:

In the last 25 years, the Capitals have blown a two-game lead in a playoff series six times. All six times, they finished in a total tailspin, losing either their last three or four straight games.

But if the Caps squander a two-game lead for a seventh time, this time against Montreal, they will break new ground. No top-seeded team has ever blown a 3-1 lead to an eighth-seeded team.

If the Caps can’t find a way to solve Habs goalie Jaroslav Halak, it will be “one of the biggest upsets we’ve had in years,” says ESPN’s Barry Melrose.

Adding to the unfolding tragic comedy: Caps will have to make do without veteran defenseman Tom Poti, who was hit in the eye with a puck on Monday. Or, for that matter, a viable powerplay. One goal in 30 tries? “Ridiculous,” says Melrose.

If there’s any good news out of Caps camp, it’s that goalie Jose Theodore was yesterday named among the finalists for the NHL’s Masterdon Trophy, a prize given to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” (Some call it the league’s “most unfair award.”)

For those unfamiliar with Theodore’s own tragic storyline, here’s a primer: The guy actually started out in Montreal, where he was hailed as the second coming ofHabs great Patrick Roy. He wasn’t. He had a good year, won some awards, nabbed a fat contract, and was never the same.

He ultimately lost his starting job to a guy from France. Not French Canada. France.

His family became embroiled in a loansharking scandal. He got mixed up with Paris Hilton and tested positive for Propecia use.

An apparent magnet for scandal, he eventually found his way to Washington, signing with a team seemingly destined for greatness. In the offseason last summer, he lost his two-month-old son to respiratory complications.

Theodore finally seemed to get his career back on track this season. Then he gave up two goals on the first two shots of Game 2 and has been riding the pine ever since.

Should Caps coach Bruce Boudreau decide to give Theo another shot tonight—and he finally gets this beleaguered team over the hump, earning redemption against the very team that traded his sorry ass—well, that’s a happy ending even a die-hard Habs fan can appreciate.