And so it’s done. Another postseason ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper.
The score of the Caps’ final curtain call in this year’s playoffs may have appeared more lopsided than the game itself, but the series was never really close. One last-gasp effort in Game 4 provided a glimmer of hope, but proved ultimately unsustainable for a team that looked woefully outmatched throughout the series by their lesser opponent and their former coach.
That said... if you’re like me, perhaps the usual sting of an early playoff exit is a little bit duller than usual.
Sure, it’s never fun to watch them depart the postseason this early - particularly at the hands of Barry Trotz’s Islanders. That definitely isn’t fun and doesn’t feel good. But there was nothing “normal” about this year, even as we watch our Capitals participate in the all-too-familiar sight of early handshakes - and there’s something soothing in that.
We got to see Caps hockey in August, a month that is usually the most interminable for any NHL fan as the league all but shuts down.
We got to experience sports again, after four long months without it - a brief respite from these times of sickness and chaos and incompetent leadership.
We got to see the NHL be surprisingly adept at not only putting a relatively entertaining product together but doing so in a way that, so far, has kept everyone involved safe. We’ve even seen them inject some humor into the proceedings.
We got to see brave men like Matt Dumba speak up and brave allies like Tyler Seguin, Robin Lehner, and Jason Dickinson take a knee alongside Ryan Reaves. We got to hear someone say black lives matter on an NHL rink - and then watch as our Capitals organization actively took on the challenge of trying to make the hockey world a more inclusive, safer space for everyone.
There are certainly some harder times ahead. There are questions about who should lead the team from behind the bench and who should remain on the roster. There are questions about Braden Holtby’s future with the organization that drafted him and with the team he backstopped to a Stanley Cup. There are cap issues and pending contract extensions and an expansion draft looming and an aging veteran core whose window may be closing.
There are, in short, plenty of things to talk about in the days, weeks, and months that lie between now and when/if the next hockey season resumes (and we’ll be here to talk about all of it, so stay tuned).
For now, we can take solace in the fact that the Caps stayed relatively safe and relatively healthy during this, the weirdest of playoffs, and now get to exit the bubble to be with their families again.
Whenever they return to the ice, we’ll be there to cheer them on - and hope for another shot at bringing a championship back to DC in the future.
Stay safe, everyone!