HARRIS: Don’t hang those ‘Titletown’ banners just yet, D.C.

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

When the Capitals won the NHL’s Southeast Division crown Tuesday night, it continued a trend in the area.

Jake Russell, a writer for TheHogs.net, noted on Twitter that in 205 days, three of the area’s four teams in major professional sports leagues won division titles. The Nats are reigning National League East winners, the Redskins will go into 2013 defending their NFC East crown and now the Caps will raise their fifth Southeast banner in six seasons.

Yep, things are pointed up. If you can somehow manage to ignore the Wizards’ start and finish, you can make a case that all four teams are moving the right way.

It’s a start. Let’s be clear on something, though: It is hardly a finish. Area sports fans have a right to be happy now. The happiness will fade if it never gets any better than this.

No one is going to erect a sign that says, “D.C., home to multiple division champs.” Adam LaRoche will never say, “Hey, this is good enough. Getting to the World Series will just cut into my hunting time.” RG3 will never say, “So what if we went one and done in the playoffs? We got in, didn’t we?”

“A division title is something for a city to be proud of, but as players we come out to win the World Series,” Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond really did say. “Winning the division brings people into the stands. It creates a buzz in the city. It boosts the economics in the city. It gets people excited.

“And that’s great. I want the city to be excited about that. But as players, we strive for more.”

As they should. That’s why they save the ticker tape for the real deal. That’s why the Capitals were so excited after beating Winnipeg on Tuesday to secure the division title — winning the division means they are in the playoffs and being in the playoffs means they have a chance to win the Stanley Cup.

“It’s the Stanley Cup, that’s the only thing that matters,” Caps goalie Braden Holtby said. “This is a step in the right direction. But we have a lot more work to do.”

The Caps have a little less wiggle room than the Skins or Nats. The Redskins hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2007, so it is a little easier to forgive a first-round loss. The Nats had never been to the playoffs, had never finished with a winning record. Losing the division series to St. Louis was painful but, hey, brighter days are ahead (or so we’re told).

This will be the Caps’ sixth playoff appearance in a row and they haven’t made it past the second round in that stretch. Last year’s run to that point was a bit of a surprise and fun because it included a first-round knockout of defending Cup champion Boston. Going in as one of the league’s hottest teams this year, more is expected. As it should be.

The Capitals have never won the Stanley Cup. Washington has a World Series championship, won so long ago (1924) that pretty much no one alive today remembers it. The Wizards were called the Bullets when they last won an NBA crown in 1978. The Redskins have a nice trophy case with three Super Bowl championship trophies but the last one was put there in 1992.

Yeah, it’s been a while since this town has had a champion in one of the Big Four.

So let’s not get greedy. If one of these teams can hang the real champions banner, it would be nice. Besides, it isn’t often the same town gets to hang two.

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