The difference between hopes and expectations is the difference between how the Washington Capitals season could have ended, and how it did end.
For Capitals fans, it was perfectly reasonable to hope that their team had a chance to win a Stanley Cup championship. They have the talent to do so, and for stretches of the regular season, the Capitals were the best team in hockey.
They didn’t play like that, though — at their best — at the end of the season and throughout both rounds of the playoffs. They had enough talent to overcome their inconsistent play in the seven game series win over the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, and enough to take the defending Eastern Conference champion Pittsburgh Penguins to seven game.
But the lackluster play caught up with them in the game seven finale Wednesday night at the Verizon Center in the 6-2 loss to the Penguins.
The Penguins are a more mature playoff hockey team. Sometimes a young talented team can ride that talent all the way to a championship, but, for the most part, in a series of seven-game playoff steps to a championship, experience counts, and Pittsburgh had more of it.
However, as a sports fan, I think all you can truly expect out of your team is progress, and the Capitals made that this season. After falling out of the first round last year in the seventh-game loss to Philadelphia, Washington took a step forward this year by reaching the conference semifinals.
It’s progress, and if you keeping moving forward, you reach your goal — in this case, a Stanley Cup championship.
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said as much after Wednesday night’s loss, and made it clear that if his team was in the same position next season — out of the playoffs in the conference semifinals round — he would consider it a disappointing season.
And he’s right.
Boudreau and his players, along with general manager George McPhee, owner Ted Leonsis and others in the organization gave the fans their money’s worth this year.
I will be on The Sports Reporters on ESPN 980 AM Washington on Friday, May 15, from 5 to 7 p.m.
To learn more about Thom Loverro, go to www.thomloverro.com