Hey you, the guy with the white gloves whose sole job it is to handle the Stanley Cup: You might as well save yourself some time and drive that sweet silver beauty down to Washington, D.C., right now—-before the puck drops in the Washington Capitals’ 2007-2008 season opener against the Atlanta Thrashers tonight. And I’m not talking about that piece-of-shit replica you guys keep at the Hockey Hall of Fame. I want the real deal, the oldest professional sports trophy in all of North America, which was first brought into the hockey world by Lord Stanley of Preston waaay back in 1892. In fact, why don’t you dig up old Stan, jolt him full of 1.21 gigawatts, and have his resurrected corpse hand-deliver the Cup—because my boys are gonna fucking rock the NHL this year. You just wait and see.
Wait, what the hell am I thinking? First off, Zombie Stanley would probably get lost along the way; by my count, the Cup’s only come to D.C. once, and that was when it was awarded to the Detroit Red Wings after they swept the Caps in the 1997-1998 finals. (May you forever burn in the firey pits of our Dark Lord’s domain, Esa Tikkanen.) Secondly, this is the Washington Capitals we’re talking about. It’s been so long since the organization has put anything other than a ragtag mix of inexperienced youngsters, career minor leaguers, European-league castoffs, and NHL journeymen on the ice that it’s near impossible to imagine the team even making the playoffs, let alone actually raising the Cup.
Yet, the team’s marked improvement—on paper, at least—has had many Caps fans feeling a strange tingling sensation during the months leading up to tonight’s game. Hope, is it called? If the Caps’ raised expectations has led to some mental and emotional confusion, it isn’t just among the team’s fans: The press doesn’t seem to know what make of the team, either.
Adam Proteau of The Hockey News has the Caps winning the Southeast Division; NHL.com’s John McGourty also shows the Caps plenty of love. ESPN’s Scott Burnside and Barry Melrose both pick the Caps as one of this year’s sleeper teams.
But their ESPN cohorts Joy Russo, E.J. “BJ for Sidney Crosby” Hradek, and perpetual clown John Buccigross see the Caps near the bottom of the Eastern Conference yet again. Sports Illustrated, which lists departed scrubs Kris Beech and Jiri Novotny as key losses, has them last in the division again. The New York Times‘ Lynn Zinser, meanwhile, lists goaltender Olaf “Olie the Goalie” Kolzig—the one player who has consistently performed admirably during the last few dark seasons—as the main reason why the team will fail.
With such a wide range of predictions surrounding the team, I can’t help but feel the need to add my own:
- Alexander Ovechkin will break 100 points—-possibly much more if/when…
- Nicklas Backstrom, who will be starting the season at wing in order to get more acclimated to the NHL, shifts back to center midway through the season. The move will force coach Glen Hanlon to have either Backstrom or Michael Nylander center Ovechkin, thus…
- Victor Kozlov will move back to the wing, where he looks much better.
- Forward Dave Steckel will be a beast in the face-off circle, and lead the team in face-off percentage.
- Defenseman Jeff Schultz will be shipped back to the Hershey Bears the moment Steve Eminger comes off the injured reserve list.
- Alexander Semin will hit the 40-goal mark and continue to not learn English.
- Posters on WashingtonCaps.com’s message boards will demand the trade of Brian Sutherby and Eminger, even if both were to have career years.
- During a post-game press conference, Hanlon will refer to his own NHL goalie experience when explaining a game-time goaltending decision.
- The Caps will make the playoffs.
- The Caps will not make the playoffs.
And, as far as general predictions go, I say:
- Sidney Crosby will cry about something.
- Everyone in the Canadian press will be there to offer Crosby a tissue when he eventually cries about something.
- The Caps will re-acquire Danius Zubrus and then, finally, trade him for Jan Hrdina.
- Daniel Briere will spontaneously combust and I will applaud.
- I will get punched in the face at Verizon Center by either a Philadelphia Flyers fan, a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, or a Buffalo Sabres fan.
- The Stanley Cup will be awarded to the team that wins the Stanley Cup Finals.
- I will eat at Subway at least two times next week. Eat Fresh.
- It might rain this weekend.
- I will find something not related to hockey to fill out these last predictions.
- I will decide to go home early today.