Three-hundred fifty-eight days - simultaneously an instant and an eternity. We all still feel the sting of Joffrey Lupul's goal, and yet it seems as if that was a lifetime ago.
But whether we blinked and "here we are" or today is finally here doesn't matter. What matters is that it's game day.
The shot at redemption starts tonight. The chance to live up to potential starts tonight. The opportunity to be led by greatness young and old, for unlikely heroes to emerge and legends to be made - it all starts tonight.
And when it ends? It will have ended too soon, whether the calendar says mid-June or late-April. For some, it will be the end of a storied career. For most, it will be another off-season thinking about what might have been. Or maybe, just maybe...
When the Caps stood pat at the trade deadline nearly a month-and-a-half ago, one thought resonated:
Whether by design, logistical impossibilities or fate, management sent a message to the players: it's up to you. There's not going to be any graybeard who's going to come in and challenge everyone in the room to be the best they can be. There's not going to be any battling blueliner who's going to lessen the load on the rest of the D-corps. There's not going to be any new goaltender who's going to stand on his head for a month-plus. Not this year.
This year, it's up to the guys in the room, the ones who have been there for the past year or two or more. It's up to the coach who took this team on a damn-near miraculous run last season and has them dreaming big this year. It's up to the most valuable player to show why he won the award last season and to recognize that there's also an award for playoff MVP. It's up to the free agent goalie, the re-born Russian veteran, the future captain, the enigmatic sniper, the Norris hopeful and everyone else on that team, in D.C. and in Hershey, because there's no help coming. Not this year. This year, they're on their own.
Let's see what they can do.
Tonight, we'll get a chance to see what, for today... it's game day.