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It’s okay to let yourself enjoy this for a little while.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

This has been a strange season to be a Caps fan.

Sure, rooting for the DMV’s hockey team has always been something of a rollercoaster ride for the emotions, but this year has had a couple of extra twists and turns to it – starting with yet another second-round loss to the eventual champion Penguins a year ago, continuing through the jettisoning of “key” players over the summer, streaks of brilliance and slumps of mediocrity, and a goalie controversy, and finally ending with a somewhat surprising Metropolitan Division title.

Through all of the ups and downs of the 2017-18 campaign, though, it sometimes felt like fans (myself included) became a bit more detached from the team – as if yet another Penguin-colored kick to the heart last spring was what pushed some of us from being emotionally all-in to building a fortress around that bruised and battered heart.

It’s not wrong to feel this way, and no one should be judged for taking their foot off the gas pedal of Caps’ fandom for just a minute. It’s a tough life, this being a Caps fan thing, and whether you’ve been along for the ride since the beginning or hopped on in the last few years, you’ve experienced some level of heartbreak (and the Penguins have usually been right smack in the middle of it). We all know what it’s like.

Today, though, we get to experience a wholly different emotion at the conclusion of the second round: Joy. Pure, unadulterated, “Bring on the Eastern Conference Final” happiness that hasn’t been seen in these parts in decades.

Yes, it is just a spot in the Eastern Conference Final, the halfway point to the ultimate goal – and nothing the Caps achieve along the way will hold the same meaning as lifting the Stanley Cup will whenever it ultimately happens, be it this year or 50 years from now.

But this is the first time in 20 years that the Caps have moved out of the second round, and the first time in 24 years that they’ve beaten the Penguins in the playoffs. It has been literally decades of misery with tiny bursts of hope for so many – so yes, we’re damn well going to celebrate this, at least for one day.

We celebrate for Barry Trotz, who has led the Caps Presidents’ Trophies and division titles each year since his arrival and yet is experiencing his first Conference Final right along with his team – a milestone 1625 games in the making.

We celebrate for Braden Holtby, whose stellar playoff record overall has a blemish on it in the form of a lackluster showing last spring against these same Penguins, who stumbled this season and started the postseason on the bench only to bounce back in tremendous form and be a true difference maker in this series.

We celebrate for Jakub Vrana, Christian Djoos, Nathan Walker, and everyone else who has made his NHL playoff debut so far – not once have they looked out of place or overwhelmed by the moment, and last night they stepped up as well as any veteran in the lineup to turn a pivotal Game 6 into a series-clinching victory.

We celebrate for Alex Ovechkin. The man, the myth, the legend, the hero, and the one who has dealt with all of the crap that’s come at the Caps over the years. That he’s never faltered despite being the scapegoat year after year, that he’s put together yet another strong playoff performance despite having the unfair reputation for disappearing in the postseason, just shows how his broad shoulders are more than capable of carrying this team to the next level.

And yes, we celebrate for ourselves, for the fans. Today we can see, many for the first time, what being on the right side of a second-round elimination game feels like... feels pretty good, doesn’t it?

So take today to celebrate all of those things. Enjoy. And then it’s back to work.

Next man up.

Next opponent up.