It’s amazing how context can shape reactions and impressions - the way things are framed often impacts how we perceive them, for better or for worse.
A perfect example would be last night’s premiere of "24/7", where the twelve-game win streak of the Penguins was presented in harsh juxtaposition to the six-game losing streak of the Capitals. While unscripted, the storylines fell into place almost like a screenplay – using the two teams as foils to one another, on and off the ice, the good and the bad in perfect contrast. The Penguins, happy-go-lucky, enjoying Christmas parties and hotel pranks; the Capitals, somber, frustrated and foul-mouthed.
Sometimes it’s important to step back from the narrative for a moment, though, and focus on the reality. The Pens are presented as seemingly always happy and laughing but there’s no way their games and practices were carried out without a frustrating moment. And as we all know, winning makes locker rooms light, makes chemistry seem stronger, makes teams appear tighter.
At the same time, while mired in their losing streak the Caps haven’t just been moping around. Practices are more businesslike, perhaps, and no one likes to lose – but there are smiles and there is laughter and fun, even if we don’t see it on TV. This is still very much a team, and a close one at that, and any perception that perhaps the chemistry is better in the Penguins’ room or that the Caps are a team in disarray as a result of this show is only seeing what’s being spoon-fed.
And just as HBO has identified the storylines for episode one of this series and framed the footage accordingly, so too in a way has this most recent loss been framed by those that preceded it. As positive as so many Caps fans are today after what is widely viewed as their "best" loss in awhile, there’s still that lingering awareness that it was the seventh straight and the slump continues undisturbed despite the team’s best efforts. A loss that usually would be, if not celebrated, at least given mild applause for the type of loss it was, instead serves as just another reminder that this team hasn’t won in two weeks.
It’s frustrating to watch the Caps lose. It’s frustrating to see the fun Pittsburgh’s having and know that the Caps could be having just as much fun, that they have characters on their team who are just as colorful as the Marc-Andre Fleurys and the Max Talbots but who are being overshadowed by the losing streak.
But the losing will end, sooner rather than later. Last night’s performance feels like a turning point and the light at the end of the tunnel is becoming visible…and then perhaps the smiles will appear on TV once more.