In case you have been living under a rock for the last year, many events in the world of sports have taken on a very familiar scenario. Depending on what the outcome of the events tonight, that could add to this set of circumstances or continue down a recognizable trend.
As the Washington Capitals prepare to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at home tonight in Game 7, that franchise faces a moment of truth. Only twice in their previous 26 playoff appearances have the Capitals reached the conference finals. Never has it occurred in a season where they had achieved the success they had this season. This is the 10th time the Capitals have reached 100 points. None of those previous 9 times did they reach the conference finals. Tonight they could. After winning the Presidents Trophy for the second straight season, the fans in our nations capital are waiting on pins and needles to see if this team will finally get over the hump.
As familiar as that feeling of hopelessness feels for the Capitals, other franchises in the last 12 months have faced that same exact situation. In order to get to this Game 7 tonight, the Capitals have had to rally from down 3-1 in this series against the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
In June of 2016, the Cleveland Cavaliers – who had never won an NBA Finals – trailed the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors 3 games to 1. Not only did the Cavaliers have that deficit on their shoulders, but the entire city of Cleveland felt cursed for their lack of championships. The last time that their sports teams had won anything was when the Browns won an NFL Championship 2 years BEFORE the Super Bowl started in 1964.
LeBron James and his teammates were able to do what many thought was the impossible and rally to defeat the Warriors in 7 games, winning 2 of the final 3 games in San Francisco. Perhaps that memory is on the minds of the Capitals and their fans, but it wouldn’t be the only recent occurrence of a team rallying from impossible odds to win a championship that had been so elusive.
Nearly four and a half months later another team from Cleveland, the Indians, looked like they were about to give the city of Cleveland another major sports championship when they took a 3-1 lead on the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. Everyone knew the odds the Cubs were looking to overcome at that point, as they were not only staring at being down 3-1 in the series, but also the fact that it had been 108 years since they last celebrated a World Series title.
However, just like the Cavaliers, the Cubs rallied, also winning 2 of their final 3 games on the road, including a memorable Game 7 in extra-innings.
Like the Cubs and Cavaliers, the Capitals lack of success has effected their entire city. They are trying to become the first team in the nations capital to reach a Conference Finals in their sport since they themselves did it in 1998. Since then the sports teams in Washington DC (Nationals, Wizards, Redskins) have gone 66 combined completed seasons without reaching one, the longest span in the four major sports.
Most Major Sports Seasons Completed in Single City – Since Last Conference Finals Appearance
Washington DC 66 1998 Capitals
Cincinnati 43 1995 Reds
Minneapolis/St. Paul 30 2009 Vikings
How poor are the odds that the Caps will win tonight? The Penguins are 5-0 on the road in Game 7s in their history. No other team has more than 3 wins without a loss in any major sport. More bad news for Caps fans? They are 3-7 at home in Game 7s. Only the Ducks at 1-4 have a worst winning percentage in the major sports. (min. 5 games).
If Washington pulls this off tonight, it will be the third time in their history they have rallied from 3-1 down to win a playoff series. On the flip side, their fans know exactly how painful that feels, as they have been the victims of blowing a 3-1 series lead 5 times, the most in major sports.
What could be in store for the Capitals tonight? Their fans and players are hoping that just like the Cubs and Cavaliers, the Capitals can put another “C” in the category of overcoming impossible odds to attain that elusive prize.