© 2021 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Washington Capitals Could Win Regular Season But Lose Championship


OK, let's get inside the minds of some sports fans. The Washington Capitals finished this year's regular season with the NHL's best record and then they knocked off the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of hockey's playoffs. So you think Caps fans would just be overjoyed, right?

Not a chance. You see, this team has a long, painful history of losing this time of year. Just ask NPR newscaster and long-suffering Caps fan Korva Coleman.

KORVA COLEMAN, BYLINE: It's a horrible relationship. If it was a boyfriend, I'd leave them. It's just awful (laughter). I just can't stop loving the Caps. And I just want them to win once.

GREENE: Maybe they will or maybe not. The Washington Capitals have had some great teams over the years but they have never won a Stanley Cup. Ian Oland is a sort of clearinghouse for Caps fan anxiety. He hears it all the time on his website, Russian Machine Never Breaks. The site is named after a quote from Cap's star Alex Ovechkin. Oland says fan anxiety has deep roots.

IAN OLAND: Year after year this continues to happen. And hockey is such a gut-wrenching sport that when the team constantly loses in overtime in these big series, it just builds up. It's kind of like having a great girlfriend and then she kind of breaks up with you randomly.

The next time you start dating a girl, you're just way more nervous about it. And I think a big part of it is even like the first round, you know, the Capitals play the eighth-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs. And...

GREENE: They won, we should say. The Capitals won. And Korva, I mean, is expressing this pain after you just won a series.

OLAND: Yeah but 5 of the 6 games went to overtime and so it was a tortured series. It just throws everybody into chaos again.

GREENE: Throwing you into chaos just as you're about to go up against your nemesis in the second round. And I have to say, I've been showing a tremendous amount of restraint because I'm a Penguins fan.

OLAND: Oh, geez.

GREENE: I just - I'm not going to gloat but there was some graffiti that was written at the Capitals practice facility. Someone wrote y'all better make it past the second round.

OLAND: Yeah. I think part of that is because Caps fans are so hurt by this team, even though they love them so much, that the way to show support is through sarcasm, through anger sometimes.

GREENE: Do you have any advice for a Caps fan who is just really suffering, feeling anxiety and uncertainty right now?

OLAND: No, actually (laughter). I don't think it's going to get much better. I mean, while I cover games from home, I'm shaking. I mean, I know that Ovechkin's wife, Anastasia, she posted an Instagram video of her hands shaking in overtime during game six. I know the Capitals are offering morning yoga to fans who sign up, so that's one way.

GREENE: You're kidding me.

OLAND: No, that's really a true thing, yeah.

GREENE: The team is offering yoga to calm people down? That's amazing.

OLAND: (Laughter) Yeah. So I don't have much advice. I just think that, again, the expectations tied on to everybody wanting this so bad, it's just something that is hard to really ratchet down. You know, that nervousness, especially if the games go to overtime, it's always going to be there. The only way it's not as if the Caps go out and sweep the Penguins and give us something to be even more confident about.

GREENE: Well, listen. I - I'm not going to wish you guys luck because you're playing the Penguins...

OLAND: Yeah.

GREENE: ...But just please know I don't want you to suffer.

OLAND: You are probably one of the nicest Penguins fans I've ever met.

GREENE: (Laughter) All right. Well, hey, listen. Enjoy the playoffs and we'll talk to you again soon.

OLAND: Thank you so much for having me. It was an honor to be here.

GREENE: What's he saying? All Penguins fans are nice. Ian Oland created the blog, Russian Machine Never Breaks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.