Thom Loverro: For Capitals, a deep history of Game 7 failure

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Sports,NHL,Capitals,Thom Loverro

A history of failure defines the Washington Capitals.

This group may want to separate themselves from the past, but Monday night's 5-0 Game 7 loss to the New York Rangers binds Alex Ovechkin to the long list of former Capitals who came up short while wearing the jersey of this organization.

"We don't pay attention to that," Troy Brouwer said before the series. "Playoffs are new every year. We've got the rap of not being able to get the job done in the playoffs, but we don't pay attention to that whatsoever."

But the 2013 Washington Capitals are the 2012 Capitals, the 2011 Capitals, the 2010 Capitals, and on and on all the way to the first Stanley Cup playoff appearance this franchise ever made when they were knocked out in the first round in 1983.

Since then: 14 first-round exits. Seven second-round departures. Just two Eastern Conference finals appearances, and only one of them leading to the Cup finals.

History is the misery of the Washington Capitals.

Owner Ted Leonsis in recent years thought he could erase history by predicting the future, declaring on various occasions that these Capitals would win Stanley Cups. But unless he can pull one out of the closet at the Verizon Center, those predictions of greatness seem empty, and grow emptier, with each early playoff departure.

Monday night was particularly painful because it was the seventh game, with equal parts of hope and despair filling the arena before the puck dropped.

A Game 5 or Game 6 exit allows proper time for a weary fan base to accept their fate. A Game 7 loss, though, is grasping defeat from the jaws of victory.

Seven of the Capitals' last nine playoff series since 2008 have gone to a seventh game. There was the stunning seven-game Eastern Conference quarterfinals loss to eighth-seeded Montreal in 2010 at home. There was the particularly gut-wrenching and embarrassing Game 7 6-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2009. Pittsburgh would go on to win the Stanley Cup that year, and the path was probably there for the Capitals to have done so as well -- if they had won Game 7.

Three of those Game 7s have now been against the Rangers. The Capitals were 1-1 in those deciding games going into Monday night's showdown. Washington defeated New York in Game 7 at the Verizon Center in 2009, while the Rangers beat the Capitals in the decider last year at Madison Square Garden. And now the Rangers prevail again.

You know the history. All Capitals fans do. But the story of Monday night's loss was not simply a defeat at the hands of the Rangers. It was the definition of the Washington Capitals organization as it as always existed.

At least there will be the raising of the final Southeast Division Championship banner next year to look forward to.

Examiner

columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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