As the playoffs quickly approach in the nation’s capital, the two teams gearing up for them are on completely different trajectories. The Capitals and Wizards yet again find themselves in the playoffs (woohoo!). This year however, things seem….different.
Last fall fans all around the DC area had two questions on their mind: “Do you think the Caps will be the dominant force they once were?” AND “Do you think this will be the Wizards year?” The questions were justified. The Capitals lost key players in FA, had gaping holes on defense and everyone just kinda assumed Ovi was old and past his prime. Then there were the wizards, max contracts all around, the message of consistency was being preached, our core group was kept together and everyone was healthy….
My how things change. Fast forward all of the seasons headlines and you come to where we are now. The Caps are 3rd in the East, winning their division on Sunday against one of their biggest rivals and on an impressive 11 game winning streak. Ovi has played in his 1000th game as a Captial, the same season he made goal number 600. The rookies have stepped up, and the questions on defense….well they shifted from the ones asked in fall.
On the other hand you have the Washington Wizards. John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter. The core of the Wizards. The ones who were to carry us to 50 wins, put us in great position for the playoffs and hopefully, at LEAST the conference championship. Again…how things change. Wall gets hurt. Porter gets banged up, but Beal…steps up. All-star season. The bench gets their act together and they make having an injured Wall seem not that big of a deal….for a while. The Wizards now are the 7th seed in the all of a sudden competitive East. 11 losses in the last 17 games is not how you want to enter the playoffs.
So where are we now? The Caps are set to face the first wild card seed, most likely the Philadelphia Flyers. If they can get into the 2nd round…the chances they meet the Penguins are very high…We’ve been there before. Lets cross that bridge if/when it happens. Everyone pray. The Wizards however are poised to meet the Kyrie Irving-less Celtics. As we’re getting healthy and finding our rhythm again, the Celtics are figuring out who to play and what match ups to chase without Irving or Marcus Smart. The thought now is…can the lower seeded Wizards, gain traction at the exact right time, be a dark horse and surprise all the teams they face in the playoffs? I say yes.
April is the best month of sports. NHL and NBA playoffs start, the same time the MLB and our Nationals begin their season. This year seems different though. The playoffs have come into DC as awkwardly and surprisingly as the forecast for snow this weekend. Everyone get ready…its going to be an interesting few weeks.