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Two years later, reminiscing on the Capitals' magical Parade Day

Two years later, reminiscing on the Capitals' magical Parade Day

Being in Las Vegas the night the Capitals won the Stanley Cup was a professional high. Broadcasting those moments as the players skated around the ice, Cup overhead, the realization not only of their dreams but the dreams of Caps fans everywhere... that was the best night of my career.

But Parade Day was a close second.

We had to get to our stage very early that morning. You could already feel the excitement in the air. Even before the sun came up. This was going to be a party unlike any this city has seen since the Redskins last Super Bowl title. But that was almost 30 years ago. This had the feel of something different. Something special.

It did not disappoint.

Michael Jenkins & I made friends with a group of fans near our set. Those guys came equipped with airplane sized bottles of many different kinds of liquor. And they were sharing. So we were drinking. Sure, it might have been around 9 am. But it felt like it was 5 o’clock somewhere. So the insanity began.

We had people lined up and down Constitution Ave. We had the parade covered from every angle. When we caught our first glimpse of the Cup, it still felt surreal. This was really happening. In DC. The demons had been exorcised. The black cloud that followed the city’s sports teams had been replaced with a bright sun and it was shining down on everyone. And it felt like everyone was there. The whole city. It was a sea of red for as far as the eye could see.

RELATED: REMEMBERING LORD STANLEY'S JOURNEY AROUND DC

And what better backdrop. The Monument on one end. The Capitol on the other. Delirious Caps fans lined the mall in between. It was amazing.

Nicklas Backstrom said he used to envision a parade down Constitution Ave every time he drove to work. He said the parade far surpassed even his wildest expectations.

When Barry Trotz addressed the crowd, he beautifully paraphrased Martin Luther King. Saying, “We had a dream.” The dream was realized. Yet, it still felt like we were living inside that dream.

Ted Leonsis thanked the fans. And the community. His dream was to unite the city. To have his franchise bring people together. His dream was playing out right in front of his eyes. Not many people get to experience that in a lifetime. You could see in his face how much this meant to him and his family. Which, at that moment, extended to the entire fan base.

RELATED: TWO YEARS LATER, BEST FAN MEMORIES FROM THE STANLEY CUP CELEBRATION

And, of course, Ovi summed it all up when he stopped the music at the end of the parade for one final statement. His reminder to the fans of how far this team had come that season.,

“We’re not gonna be f*****g suck this year!”

That’s a mic drop moment if there ever was one.

For us, it was the culmination of the wildest two-month rides of our lives. Seeing Alan May tear up when they won the Cup. Then seeing him get emotional again when his team was celebrated in his city... that was all worth it.

The parade was over. The party was not.

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Walking through the city was phenomenal. Everyone smiling, everyone enjoying the moment. I high-fived strangers in the street. I shared a drink or two along the way.

We all made our way to Penn Quarter Sports Tavern. Alan arranged for us to have our own personal keg on the top floor. It was packed. Horn Guy & Loud Goat were leading the chants. Somehow, we all ended up doing inverted keg stands to see who could do it the longest. It was being broadcast by Steve Czaban on 980. I know that because some guys stopped me at the end of the night and said they were listening to the play-by-play on the radio. It was all so crazy. It was all so fun.

I’d sign up for another summer like that right now!

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Losing Nicklas Backstrom would be 'huge trouble' for the Capitals

Losing Nicklas Backstrom would be 'huge trouble' for the Capitals

Nicklas Backstrom only played seven minutes in the Caps' frustrating Game 1 loss to the Islanders last night after a late hit by Anders Lee sidelined him for the second and third periods. 

The Caps' weren't happy about it, fans certainly weren't happy about it, and now the focus shifts to the 32-year-old center who's struggled with concussions in the past. And as the team's radio voice, John Walton explained on the Sports Junkies Thursday, losing Backstrom for more time than they already have would be troubling news.

"If Nicky is out for any length of time, that's huge trouble," Walton said. "The good news is they're gonna get Lars Eller back in Game 2 and he may have to -- and he has in the past -- been the second-line center. But if you lose Nick Backstrom you're obviously losing something big."

Backstrom's value to the Capitals' offense can't be understated. He's a terrific passer, has a unique chemistry with Alex Ovechkin and facilitates the offense like a point guard does in basketball. 

The Islanders are a physical, defensive-minded team, but Walton thinks Lee's hit on Backstrom was a cheap one.

RELATED: HOLTBY TAKES BLAME FOR CRUCIAL MISTAKES IN GAME 1

"I don't know if it crossed into suspension territory, [Lee] is not going to be from what we're told," Walton said. "But it was cheap, it was late and it was a lot of things that came out of the Caps' dressing room."

Now we wait to hear Backstrom's status ahead of a crucial Game 2, and since the Eastern Conference playoffs are played in the same place and most of the media is covering the games from home, it's harder to get concrete updates in a timely manner. 

"One of the problems that we're fighting is that when you're [broadcasting] in Washington and the games are in Toronto you don't have the same access to information that we usually have," he said. "We can only go on what we saw."

Head coach Todd Reirden is expected to talk on Backstrom's availability Thursday after practice, so with any luck, the Caps will have Backstrom back for Game 2 on Friday night. If they don't have him, though it's going to be difficult for Washington to avoid the dreaded 2-0 series hole. 

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Braden Holtby takes the blame for critical Game 1 mistakes

Braden Holtby takes the blame for critical Game 1 mistakes

Braden Holtby was the Capitals' best player in the round robin. On Wednesday, he committed two major mistakes that proved to be the difference in Washington's 4-2 Game 1 loss to the New York Islanders and he did not shy away from responsibility afterward.

Late in the second period, the Caps led 2-0 and looked to be in complete control. Then Jordan Eberle took a pass from Mathew Barzal, cut from left to right and fired what should have been a harmless wrister from the top of the faceoff circle. Instead of being an easy save, however, Holtby's body drifted to his right and the puck somehow avoided his raised glove and hit the back of the net.

"First goal obviously can't go in," Holtby said. "I haven't seen a replay of it yet. Can't really tell you too much. I just know it's a bad goal in a bad part of the game. That's on me. That changes the momentum of the game right there."

In the third period, after the Islanders rallied to tie the game at 2, Holtby took a cleared puck on a Caps' power play and tried to casually hand it off to Alex Ovechkin without realizing Brock Nelson charging in after them. Nelson would win possession and pass it off to Josh Bailey who scored the game-winning short-handed goal.

"Shorthanded goal was just more of a miscommunication," Holtby said. "I think I was kind of fighting for it in the sealing and I didn't realize that there wasn't much time there. I should've just held onto it. I thought we had more time. That one's something that we just - you don't want it to happen."

RELATED: OBSERVATIONS FROM GAME 1 OF CAPS VS. ISLANDERS

That's two major mistakes with one proving to be the turning point of the game while the other was the game-winning goal.

While Holtby was quick to put the blame on himself, head coach Todd Reirden said the loss was a collective effort.

“Like the rest of our players, I thought we had a good first half of the game and we needed more from everybody in the second half, not just [Holtby]," Reirden said,

It is interesting to wonder what would happen in Game 2 if Ilya Samsonov was healthy and with the team. Holtby was the team's No. 1 all season, but Samsonov played frequently and, for much of the season, outplayed Holtby. Would Reirden make the goalie change for Game 2 if that option was available?

With Samsonov injured, however, this question is purely hypothetical. With the team's two goalie choices behind Holtby being Vitek Vanecek and Pheonix Copley, a goalie switch for Game 2 is not even worth considering. The only solution is for Holtby and the team to forget about Game 1 and remember that it's a long series and Washington is by no means out of it.

"I think we have an experienced enough group to know that one game doesn't make a series," Hotlby said. "It's how you respond to it, it's how you do the little things, learn from the game that you just played and find ways to play them better. I think to push forward from a game like today is one that I want to make sure that I have my best game come next game and as a group, I think individually if we all expect more of ourselves then that's how we've won in the past and that's how we're gonna do it again. First game in the series doesn't say much about how it's gonna go. It's how you respond from here on out."

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