Perhaps the twinge of disbelief in the headline is disingenuous. After all, the Washington Capitals are coming off a series in which they disposed of the silently smug, patchily bearded opponent that gave a face to their playoff demons. Since physically overcoming the Pittsburgh Penguins required them to mentally overcome themselves, it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that they've hit the ice faster than a bobsled team in jumping out to a 2-0 lead over a team that didn't possess the same type of decade-long strangle hold on their psyche. Still, it's not where they currently are, which is two wins away from conference supremacy, that has me taken aback, but rather how they've gotten there.
Take last night, for example. Once again without the helping hands of their best playmaking center, the Capitals took the earliest of leads with a goal that will ultimately turn up the volume on their fanbase's mind-numbing glorification of Tom Wilson's contributions, but that's not the impressive part. Rather, the impressive part is that, despite immediately falling behind on two power play goals that came after back-to-back bullshit calls that were so unbelievably ill-advised that they might as well have been dialed up after a dozen shots of tequila, Washington never wavered.
Considering how bad those penalties were, I don't think anyone would have been too critical if a team that had already authoritatively stolen home ice proceeded to get struck by the Lightning in their desperate attempt to salvage any sort of ground. Instead, they spanked one of the deepest offensive units in the league into submission so unrelentingly that it probably left the sting of a five fingered handprint on their ass.
In case that renewed sense of resilience isn't enough to prove to you that this year might be different, let's go back to Game 1 for a minute...
Tell me, in what world does Washington Capitalize on such an that absurd set of circumstances? If anything, those types of mountainous momentum swings have typically haunted their postseason's past, not ended up reinforcing their belief in themselves. Historically speaking, if you flipped a coin as to which team would be the beneficiary of a goddamn trifecta of timeliness, that thing would be more heavily weighted against Alexander Ovechkin than every anti-Russian stereotype. The Capitals are plenty familiar with the surreal turning of events, but realistically it's more innate to their own disappointment than the annual, Spring-time shaming of their captain. So, whether it be enough for them to declare league-wide dominance remains to be seen, but there is definitely something different and more perseverant about these Capitals.
Now, it's incredibly stupid to discount a team as talented as Tampa Bay, but they certainly aren't the the group that looked either looser or more laser-focused as of late...
I don't necessarily know that I'm ready to say it's the "Caps Year", but - since May has never been their month and yet they are currently blooming in almost every aspect of the matchup - the idea that it is isn't the least bit laughable anymore.