Washington Capitals: The most futile playoff team in the history of American sports?

The Washington Capitals have made the playoffs 23 times in 29 seasons. That’s the good news. Now here’s the bad news:

The Caps are the most underachieving, unlucky team in the history of North American sports. Name a team that has failed to live up to its seeding in the playoffs more often than the Caps. You can’t.

The Caps are like Sisyphus, who in Greek mythology, according to Wikipedia, was a “king punished by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever.”

Caps fans are like Charlie Brown, about to kick the football, when Lucy pulls it away — time and time again. (Will Charlie Brown ever get the little red haired girl)?

If you arrived in town yesterday, you can say that the Caps aren’t the Chicago Cubs (no titles in more than 100 years) or the New York Rangers (no championships for the half century before 1994), but that misses the point. First, the Rangers did win a Stanley Cup before their drought. Second, no sports franchise has failed more often in relation to how long the team has been around. No team has more often lost as the higher seed (at least 10 times), lost more two-game series leads (seven), lost more three or four overtime playoff games (four) or lost more Game 7s (seven) than the Caps.

Now Washington is finding new ways to lose. With 6.6 seconds left in Monday’s Game 5 against the New York Rangers in the second round of the NHL playoffs, the Caps allowed the Rangers to tie the game and send it into overtime. Then just a minute-and-a-half into the extra period, Marc Staal got one past the Caps’ Braden Holtby.

The steady Joel Ward for some reason decided to hit a home run with Carl Hagelin’s head with 21.3 seconds left, earning a high-sticking penalty. Then the normally reliable Holtby did an “I’m rubber, you’re glue, everything bounces off of me, and then you score” routine.

Two games earlier, Washington fell in triple overtime to the Rangers, the fourth time in their history that the Caps have lost a three or four-overtime game.

Looking back at their history, the Caps have won a lot of regular season games, but only twice in 37 seasons have they clearly overachieved during the playoffs, in 1990 when they made it to the conference finals, and in 1998, advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals.

To read the rest of my article on Examiner.com, click here.

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