C-A-P-S

When are you Clones going to learn? When you are going to learn to trust me, and even more importantly, not disrespect me when it comes to my Stanley Cup predictions. Because when I put myself out there and picked the Washington Capitals to win it all, the same Capitals that have found a way to underachieve and melt down routinely in the postseason, you all thought I was out of my mind.

And then when a young Toronto Maple Leaf squad pushed them hard in the first round, you couldn’t wait to jump me, talk junk about the pick and pile on. Except the Caps came back to win that series. As I knew they would. And although I know many of you hit your knees every night to pray that my pick will blow up in my grill so you could bumrush me and throw it my face. I don’t take offense. In fact, I accept your apology.

Except you started up again in the second round when Pittsburgh jumped on the Capitals 3-1, with three chances to finish. I said I wasn’t worried when they were down 3 games to 1; that I had never been wrong before with my Stanley Cup prediction and I wasn’t about to start right now. And what happens? They dig keep; win Game 5 to send it back to Pittsburgh. Then what? You crack me again, saying nothing hurt, the Penguins going back home and there’s no way the Caps are coming out that barn with a win.

And then they punched a hole in the chest of Marc-Andre Fleury, they knocked Sid Crosby around the rink, and they treated the defending Stanley Cup champs like a speed bag.

Five Goals. Each one piercing that invincibility shield that Fleury had been wearing all series. Each one another bat to the head of a Penguins team that looked like it was ready to choke out the Caps earlier in the series.

But what did I tell you about this Caps’ team. NOT THE SAME OLD CHOKING DOGS. Not the President’s Trophy winners that wave the White Flag in Round 2. And now — after ripping away a W in Pittsburgh, something that rarely happens in the regular season, much less an elimination game in the postseason, the series shifts back to the District, where Washington was the best home team in the NHL this season.

That’s what I keep telling you. This is a gift. That’s why I told you — I’m not worried, Trotzy and the boys got this.

Because that’s what champions do.

That’s why it’s Best of 7. That’s why it’s first to 4. And that’s why it’s the Stanley Cup. It’s not supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to be a war. It’s supposed to test your resolve, and force you to overcome adversity. And to do it time and time again.

And while the Caps are getting stronger and more confident, the Penguins are leaking oil and engine parts and looking for a place to lie down and die. Not having Kris Letang and Trevor Daley is catching up to them now

And sooner or later those clanged pipes were going to turn into goals. Sooner or later the magic would wear off for Fleury — who finally fell back to earth last night.

So push them all to the middle. Wednesday night. In the District. Back from the dead. And ready to drive that final stake through the defending champs in an epic Game 7. C-A-P-S CAPS CAPS CAPS.

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