Game (5) Day - Rangers @ Capitals

Ovechkin Green Mid-Air Hug

What a difference a year makes.

While there are certainly some similarities between the 3-1 holes in which the Caps have found themselves heading into a first round, home Game 5 against a former Patrick Division rival in each of the past two Aprils, the feeling this time around is decidedly different.

A year ago, the Caps were coming off a hard-fought double-overtime loss which prompted the owner to proclaim, "Our team is bigger and tougher than the Flyers. They know it now and we know it now. We now know how to play playoff hockey, NHL style."

This year? Stunned and somber, despite the fact that they're still saying all the right things.

Last year, we believed that they believed. This year? It's a tougher sell after watching the team seemingly abandon in Game 4 much of what made them so successful in Game 3.

But if faith is truly all we have right now, faith it shall be.

Faith that Henrik Lundqvist will revert to something a little closer to the 3.57 goals against average and .882 save percentage he posted against the Caps in the regular season. Then again, we don't need to rely on faith here - the Caps have potted at least three goals in half of the games in the series so far.

Faith that the power play can ramp up towards the mark that was good enough for second-best in the NHL over the 82-game regular season. Then again, we don't need to rely on faith here, either - the Caps have scored a pair of power-play goals in two of the four games in the series so far.

Faith that the young goalie can show the composure of a veteran and every bit of the potential and ability that the organization and its fans see in him, faith that the best player on the planet can again be the best skater on the ice (with a couple of his running mates not far behind), faith that a much-maligned group of rearguards can keep Ranger chances to a minimum, faith that a team that had discipline issues all season long can continue to turn the other cheek, and faith that the team's pivots can win the big draws when they need to and minimize the chance that lucky bounces will go the wrong way. Then again, we don't need to rely on faith for any of these things - we've seen them all at one point or another throughout the first four games of the series so far.

The key, of course, is putting all or most of these components together in the same game and for the duration of that game (and that's where the faith comes into play). If the Caps can do that, they can and will win tonight. And Sunday. And Tuesday.

Faith is nice and imminently necessary - but we've got a hell of a lot more than that to go on. We've got the 2008-09 Washington Capitals.

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