"I don't remember nothing." -- Alex Ovechkin's recollection of Game Five vs. Montreal in 2010.
There are plenty of stories being written today from all the different media outlets about the Washington Capitals playoff failures, especially when they've held a three games to one lead in their history, as they do currently over the New York Rangers. I suppose, in its own way, this column is one of those stories too.
But, as Mark McGwire said famously while on the stand in front of Congress when asked about his use of performance enhancing drugs, I'm not here to talk about the past.
It's a reference point, sure. The Capitals are 2-7 all-time in playoff series where they've held a three games to one lead. Last season they became the first No. 1 seed to blow a 3-1 series lead. Washington is 5-12 all-time at home in Game Fives. We can go on and on about the stats and the history. Because it's certainly there, for anyone that wants to look it up.
But the past is just not applicable in making a projection. It makes for good narrative, because it's can be construed as "inner turmoil," a team fighting against itself and its history. And we all know that struggle and controversy sells.
One can say the leaders of this team haven't learned how to close out a playoff series yet, that until they "put their foot on the neck" of their opponent, they'll be flawed and incomplete as leaders, as players, as a team. I'm not sure I buy that, but I'm not sure I don't either.
Psychology is a funny thing, especially when you're talking about the psychology of a group of young individuals from widely diverse backgrounds.
But to compare this team to the 94-95 team, or the 91-92 team, the 86-87 team, or even last year's team for that matter, is folly.
"I think they know what happened in Game Five [against Montreal] in the first ten minutes," coach Bruce Boudreau said after practice. "We've talked about it many times during the course of the year. But I'm not going to show them videotape of it or anything."
The only thing similar that this Capitals team has to all of those before them is the name on the front of the sweater. Several weren't even born yet in 1987. Some of the players remain from last year's collapse, but many faces have changed. It's a different team.
Marcus Johansson. Michal Neuvirth. Matt Hendricks. Scott Hannan. Jason Arnott. Marco Sturm. None were involved in last season's debacle.
Sure, for long-time fans of the Caps, each of those playoff failures took away a little of their souls. Each failure chipped away at their veneer, their armor, their self defense against heartache. The losses made them more cynical, guarded, pessimistic. "Choking Dogs", is how one popular former- Washington Post columnist used to refer to the Capitals come April.
And again, I understand the narrative. The history is there so it has to be written about until a team comes along to "break the curse." Fans feed into it as well, almost wearing it as a badge of courage when talking with their friends of other hockey teams.
But the players in the locker room don't care about the past, if they even are aware of it. Sure, they remember last season, because it's fresh in their minds. For the players that experienced it in person, and the others that watched it from a distance.
But I can promise you none of them, not even the oldest vets, could tell you about Ken Wregget's 3-0 shutout to close out the 1995 series against Pittsburgh. None of them knew the devastation of the Pat LaFontaine goal.
That's all for the fans and media to re-live. All today's team is concerned about is Brandon Dubinsky, Sean Avery and Henrik Lundqvist. As it should be.
Yes. a win in Game Five would exorsize some demons for Caps fans and make them feel better about the team they root for, and about themselves for continuing to believe in that team even though the names, faces and personalities have changed over the course of 36 years, but the pain has remained the same.
But for the current team, it would give them a couple games off, a chance to rest and heal from a grueling, physical series. And maybe, just maybe, they might learn something about themselves, too.