Dear Pittsburgh Penguins and fans,
Well, it’s been a hell of a run, but finally it’s our turn. It’s our year.
First, congratulations on your amazing run. You won two straight Stanley Cups. That’s an incredible achievement. Yes, we are aware that nothing that happened this year can take away those Cups and yes, we are aware that we still haven’t won one yet.
But your two-year reign is over. And we ended it.
No, we’re not gloating. Believe us, we’ve had plenty of heartbreak in recent years. We wouldn’t wish that on anyone and what you’re going through right now sucks.
Really, we feel relief more than anything.
Can we be honest for a second? We may hate the Penguins, but we love this rivalry. We hate Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby as much as we love Peter Bondra and Alex Ovechkin. Every time we play you it means more. A regular season game in February can feel like the most important game in the world just because we want to destroy you so badly.
It’s been awhile since you’ve been in this position, since 1994 to be exact. Some of you may have trouble accepting this. Some may say “whatever, we’re not even rivals.”
First of all, don’t pretend like we’re not rivals because you hate the Philadelphia Flyers. Everybody hates the Flyers. You’re not unique in this. Second, yes we are rivals. You take over the steps of the National Portrait Gallery outside of Capital One Arena every time you win whether its the regular season or the playoffs. Those are the kind of traditions reserved just for rivals.
Seriously, do you have any big traditions in Phoenix every time you beat the Arizona Coyotes? Are there any major victory gatherings in Miami when you beat the Florida Panthers? No? That’s what we thought.
Yes, we all know we have only beaten Pittsburgh twice in the playoffs in 11 meetings. You can gloat about that all you want, but just like we can’t take anything away from your Stanley Cup runs the last two years, you can’t take any of the joy we feel this year away from us.
No more of this “Alex Ovechkin can’t win” nonsense. He scored the game-winner in Game 3 and had the primary assist in the game-winning goals in Game 5 and Game 6. He has eight goals and 15 points in 12 games this postseason and continues to produce at a point-per-game rate in the playoffs.
No more “Braden Holtby isn’t a playoff goalie” lunacy. He has the second-best save percentage in NHL playoff history.
No more curse.
The best part about this is that this finally feels like a real rivalry again. It always felt that way to us, but with every passing year, with every series loss, there was that nagging feeling that perhaps you may lose interest. Perhaps this won’t mean as much next year as it does now. The only thing worse than seeing a rival win is seeing a rival not care. But we don’t have to worry about that anymore because while you may have beaten the Caps nine times in 11 playoff meetings, we ended your Cup run. We handed Mike Sullivan his first playoff loss and we did it in front of your hometown fans.
We know that stings.
We know that regardless of how dismissive you may try to be about the Capitals, regardless of all the past wins, regardless of all the past Cups, you had to watch Ovechkin celebrate on your ice after beating your team and ending your chance at a three-peat. That will be tough to get over. It will be made worse by the fact that everytime these two teams meet next season, they will show a replay of Evgeny Kuznetsov slipping the puck through Matt Murray's five-hole in overtime. It will eat at you and you will want nothing more than to beat us every time we play just to erase that image and move on from a heartbreaking loss.
Now that's a rivalry. We can't wait either.
See you guys next year.