I love stories. Short stories, long stories, stories about happiness, sadness, and being in shitty situations. So, with all this frustration and anxiety about the Caps' playoff hopes, I thought I would lighten the mood, take us back to the future, a la The Copper and Blue's short vignettes, with a story about the Caps in a very favorable place. So here's my story, and I hope you like it.
"He's Brian Engblom, I'm Mike Emrick, and if you're tuning in right now, shame on you! The score is three-three, deep in second overtime, and this couldn't be a more exciting game, right, Brian?"
"Right, Doc. This has been a game worthy of our expectations, and right now, both the Caps and Wings are vying hard for this game."
"Face-off coming, to the left of Michal Neuvirth, the young Czech goaltender, who, amazingly, is only playing in his second post season, having been swept out of the playoffs last year by the Lightning."
"He's been fantastic in this series, he and Tomas Vokoun have shown amazing ability between the pipes, been unflappable in their focus, and have made the right saves at the right times."
"Backstrom wins the faceoff cleanly, and it ends up behind the net, with 15:06 left in this second overtime period, shots even at 45. Wideman picks it up, plays it along the boards to Johannson, the young Swedish winger, who, amazingly, is also playing, only, in his second postseason series." "Yes, this Capitals team has a boat load of young talent, and it has been one of the key driving forces in this Capitals playoff run." "In the meantime, Johannson plays it up to Backstrom, who finds a passing lane through the Wings D! Alex Ovechkin, on a breakaway, is tripped up! Referee Sutherland is gesturing emphatically towards center ice! We have a penalty shot upcoming for the Capitals, here on NHL on NBC, in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals!"
He opened his eyes, gazed down. His own heavy breathing drowned out the adoring crowd of 19,000, made puffs of fog rise up, slowly, towards the rafters. He looked up, seeing the famous numbers of those famous four men look back down upon him. He glanced back, watching as one of those numbers, the beloved #32 barked orders from his own bench. He shifted his eyes back down, examined his skates. Yellow, waxy, as always. Yet, it did not feel the same as always. He straightened into a standing position. He felt the ice crunch under his razor-sharp, unforgiving blades, as he had countless times before. It did not feel like those times past. Looking down at his own jersey, the ubiquitous red, white, and blue of Washington, he saw the conspicuous C sewn on it, now on his uniform for a full three years. It, too, did not feel the same. He, himself, did not feel the same. This whole game, he realized, was not the same. He looked up, gazing across 100 feet of solid, frozen expanse. Upon this expanse, sweat was dropped, punches thrown, blood spilled, all in honor of Lord Stanley. He gazed across, to the masked man waiting for him, to stop him in his tracks. He, too, probably did not feel the same. He dropped his gaze back down to the ice, consumed in his thoughts. The magnitude of the situation hit him; he had a chance to end it all, to win it all, within ten seconds. A chance to win it all.
A piercing whistle shattered his thoughts. He snapped back up, glanced at the official on the ice, who gave him a nod, and perhaps a slight smile. He took a deep breath, pushed off towards the puck, waiting for him at center ice. He lowered his stick, received the puck on his blade, on his pristine white tape. As the puck came to him, he saw his brother, laughing alongside him, guiding his young, clumsy feet along, getting used to the feeling of his first pair of skates. He lost his balance and fell, landing at Sergei's feet. "Don't worry, Zhaba," Sergei said as he picked him up, "you will learn. You will be great at this." He started off, the puck sliding gracefully on his stick, advancing ever-so-rapidly at the man waiting for him at the net, dressed in white and red, large pads covering his legs. He took a stride, and saw his mother, Tatyana, sitting beside him, holding his hand, tears in her eyes. "Honor your brother, Alex," she managed through her sobs, "Sergei knew you loved the game. Keep playing it, no matter what. He gave all he had to you. Give all you have to him." He took a stride, now gaining speed. The puck, still, was with him. He gained forward speed, now moving past the blue line. He heard his name being called out. His father embraced him, beaming wide. "With the first selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the Washington Capitals are pleased to select Alexander Ovechkin!" He looked up, nearing the net, now reaching the top of the circles. He tensed his arms, scanning the goaltender, looking for gaps in the wall. He brought his feet parallel, loading for a shot. He looked up, saw his coach, Bruce, take his hand in a limp handshake. Around him, groans arose from the jersey-clad fans. "Maybe next year, Alex. You tried and gave your best. Go home. Eat dinner. Forget about Halak." All that, now, he thought, behind him. He felt his hands propel his stick forward, launching the rubber disc at Howard. The play was out of his hands now. He watched as he reacted, lightning-quick, pads out, glove flashing.
The fans roared. Howard, from under his mask, gave a wry smile. Ovechkin, too, smiled back. The red light blinked on.
So, how'd you like it? Storytime good? Storytime bad? Storytime shitty?