With the inaugural Convention love-in come and gone, and the local community fully embracing the team, leading our Next Great One to proclaim, in reference to the D.C. metro environs, "It's like Canada," it's time to get down to business.
Of course, for the team, but for the fans as well. Last season's opening was the most anticipated opening in Washington Capitals history, and now the excitement over this season's opener easily supplants that one. Anticipation, it is often said, may be among the purest forms of happiness. And so, as we count down the few remaining hours to puck drop on this 35th Caps season, ensuring that our refrigerators and wine racks are properly stocked for the occasion, we should all be on the verge of delirium.
Still, what was an unprecedented measure of hope last season has distilled and matured that delirium into more of an expectation. We're so close to the summit. And we're going to overflow the building with Red on a nightly basis in 2009-10. But it's a different feeling entirely now, where there is no more waiting for definitive missing pieces, waiting for something wonderful yet wholly unexpected to unfold. From Dan Rosen of NHL.com:
[The Caps] have enough playoff experience (and heartache) that they are no longer the happy-go-lucky team out of the Southeast Division that puts a smile on everyone's face.
And while there is an adjustment period for a fan base unaccustomed to their team being in the spotlight, unaccustomed to great expectations, it is time now to take the next step, to expect and demand greatness. We were happy-go-lucky, but now we thirst, we long more than ever to drink from the Chalice. So close to the oasis, let it not be a mirage. It's not going to be enough to see dazzling individual efforts or anything else but Captain Clark hoisting the Cup aloft in June.
Let our hearty cheers at the Centre Verizón this season become more guttural. Let our passions at the rink trend more toward intimidating opponents than simply enjoying our heroes' exploits. And let us burst forth with emotion organically, without being prompted by a jumbotron or a spirit squad or any other annoying entreaty to make some noise. Let us break down the psyches of opposing fans with unassailable facts and, failing that, well, exercise your imagination to its fullest capabilities.
There was a time when I was satisfied with a single victory against a tough opponent, seeing one of our guys on top of the stat leaderboard, a playoff berth, a well-played seven game series. An unlikely Cup final berth in 1998. Content to congratulate opponents and their supporters for a contest well-played. No more.
Today, prior to Game One, I shut down my left brain and entertain only thoughts that the salary cap makes every team flawed, even the Caps' peer contenders, and let take root the belief that it is Our Time, and we must win the Cup. Now, let's go out there and take it. It's a long and perilous journey. Tonight, we ride.