The Washington Capitals have long been considered the wimpy younger brother to the Penguins, but with Saturday’s convincing win over Pittsburgh, Washington may have finally turned the corner.Since Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby entered the league, their teams have ruled the Eastern Conference. But for all the regular season success the Capitals have had, they have woefully underachieved in the playoffs while Crosby and the Penguins have appeared in two Stanley Cup Finals and won a championship.
This year the Capitals got off to their typical roaring start before running into a wall during December where they lost eight straight games. Whispers about Coach Bruce Boudreau’s job security grew louder as the Capitals tumbled down the standings.
But then Washington started winning again. Heading into the Winter Classic, Washington had won four of five; and then they thoroughly outplayed Pittsburgh en route to a 3-1 win.
The team’s confidence was in the pits during their losing streak, but their recent success and victory over the Penguins was a huge showing of maturity. After weathering the ugly December storm and overcoming a huge mental obstacle in the Penguins, there is little doubt now that Washington will soon assume control of the Southeast Division, and possibly the Eastern Conference.
The question is how it will translate in the playoffs. Until they advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, Washington will have achieved nothing. But by overcoming adversity over the last month, the Capitals may finally have conjured up the toughness that it will take for them to succeed in the postseason.
If the 2010-11 season ends with Ovechkin hoisting the Stanley Cup, we may look back to the Winter Classic as the turning point for this franchise.
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