The Rangers-Capitals first-round playoff series might have been closer than its finish in five games might indicate — the Rangers, after all, had third-period leads in two of their losses — but the Capitals were the better team in the series (and closed it out with a dominant performance in Game 5). The Caps have had so little postseason success during the Alexander Ovechkin era — their only series wins have been the two against the Rangers, who incidentally, have won as many playoff series since the lockout as Washington has — but they appeared to be better suited for a deep playoff run this year: They still have some dangerous offensive weapons, but they’d adopted a more defensive style and had the ability to make in-game changes to that style if necessary. Maybe the Rangers made them look good. But they did indeed look pretty good.
And now, they’re out of the playoffs, swept by the Lightning in a series that ended last night. The annual Capitals’ postseason disappointment came one round too late, as far as Rangers fans are concerned. And now it’s the Lightning — the team those Rangers fans cheered for against Carolina on the final night of the season — who’ve already advanced to the conference finals.
And not to reignite the which-fan-base-is-louder debate, but give the city of Washington credit for this: The Caps are a big enough deal down there — right now, at least — that they got prime space on the front page of the Washington Post today. (Imagine the unlikelihood of a hockey player appearing on the front page of the Times today, even if the Rangers were still playing. Short of news that Derek Stepan moonlights a member of Navy SEAL Team 6, it wouldn’t have happened.) And if nothing else, the Caps playoff run gave us this photo, of the man simultaneously working the TelePrompTer and rocking a Capitals jersey, during the president’s big speech on Sunday night.