There is a very high chance that most readers who are here right now are fuming out of their ears after seeing the headline. The Washington Capitals are public enemy number one in New York, and this opinion of mine surely won’t sit well with a lot of you.
I’m sure you will all be rational about this, especially with what has transpired over the past two weeks, but Rangers fans should be pulling for the Capitals this postseason. And before you hit me (pun intended) with “but Tom Wilson doesn’t deserve another Cup,” hear me out.
There’s a man that many of us have come to love by the name of Henrik Lundqvist. The King spent 15 seasons carrying a Rangers team on playoff run after playoff run but ultimately failed on his quest to bring the Stanley Cup back to New York. After being bought out of his final year by the Rangers, Lundqvist chose to sign with the Caps in search of what has eluded him his whole career.
At the time of his departure and signing with the Capitals, there was nothing but an outpouring of support for Lundqvist. Rangers fans gathered around on social media to send him congratulatory messages and wish him the best on his quest for a Stanley Cup. Many people, including myself, vowed to be pulling for him come postseason time to finally cement himself in the pantheon of greats by hoisting Lord Stanley over his head. In fact, I believe I speak for 95 percent of Rangerstown when I say that Lundqvist deserves his Raymond Bourque moment.
Despite the Wilson incident and the bad blood that has developed between the Blueshirts and Caps recently, Rangers fans should stand by that vow to cheer for Lundqvist to win that Stanley Cup. And after what he has endured this season, I call for you all to join me in overlooking Wilson’s antics to root for the Capitals this postseason.
Lundqvist’s Season Ended Before it Begun
Passion is what makes sports great. The bitter rivalries, the heated interactions, both by players on the ice and fans off of it, make the games that much more enjoyable. But every so often, an event transpires that we realize is bigger than the game, and the mutual respect opponents and rivals have for each other shine through.
When Lundqvist announced on social media that he was undergoing open-heart surgery to correct issues with his aorta, this concept was exemplified (from ‘Henrik Lundqvist announces he will have open heart surgery,’ by Associated Press – 12/28/2020). There was an outpouring of support from fans, both of the Rangers and Capitals, and those that rooted against him for the last 15 seasons joined as well. Players who once stared him down in pivotal moments reached out to show their support for this new battle; its implications were significantly greater than a mere two points.
This moment made us realize that Lundqvist, regardless of the crest on his sweater, is beloved by every New Yorker. It was a surreal moment seeing that outpouring of support. Still, over time, we once again settled back into the game and the rivalries, forgetting about the battle that the former Rangers’ netminder was going through. And over the course of those battles, we forgot the promises we had made to Hank, that we would cheer for him and root for him to finally raise Lord Stanley over his head.
Lundqvist’s determination and passion were on display as he took to the ice just weeks after open-heart surgery to attempt a comeback before being sidelined due to inflammation around his heart. Despite the setback, his attempt to come back to try and play for a Capitals team destined for the postseason should be enough to pull Rangers fans onto the Washington bandwagon.
The Capitals Quest to the Stanley Cup Will Be Exciting
So if your blood hasn’t boiled over yet, then allow me to continue. The Capitals’ first-round matchup against the Boston Bruins will be terrific for many reasons, but primarily the fact that Zdeno Chara will face off against his former team. The veteran defenseman will look to defeat the team he captained for 14 seasons on his quest for one final Cup.
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Aside from the storyline, the battle between two physical teams in Round 1 and the potential clash with the Islanders or Penguins in Round 2 will be must-watch television. Alex Ovechkin will be returning from injury. Nicklas Backstrom is having a phenomenal season. Vitek Vanecek has emerged from nowhere this season. T.J. Oshie is playing in honor of his late father.
This team will be fun to watch, and despite the hatred that Rangers fans have right now towards Washington, there is reason to root for the Capitals this postseason. So if you care to join me in pulling for Lundqvist’s first Cup, hop on the bandwagon. And if you care to yell at me for this in the comments; well, that option is available down below.
Brendan Azoff is a THW contributor and podcast host dedicated to covering the New York Rangers. His passion for hockey started when he first laced up the skates at three, growing into his love for writing and talking about the greatest sport in the world. His podcast, The Backcheck, breaks down the Rangers, Islanders, and NHL news and can be found on The Hockey Writers Podcast Network and Belly Up Sports. Brendan has been writing about the Rangers and the NHL for over two years, with his content also found on Puck Prose, Blue Line Station, and E2G Sports. If you want to connect with Brendan and stay up-to-date on his posts, follow him on Twitter. He is always available for content ideas and interviews, don’t be afraid to ask!