You woke up this morning knowing that it all could end today.
The losing streaks in December, January, and February, the dressing of almost two full lines of AHL'ers for a month of the season, the pleas to trade Ryan Whitney, the acquisitions of Billy Guerin, Craig Adams, and Chris Kunitz at the trade deadline, all could mean nothing after 60 minutes of hockey tonight in D.C.
Tonight, Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals comes to us from in the midst of all the bells, whistles, sirens, air horns, and cartoon character P.A. announcers of the Verizon Center in Washington.
The Caps were up 2-0 in this series. They had their chance to put it away. They failed.
The Pens erased the two game deficit and polished Washington off in Game Five to take a 3-2 advantage in the series.
They had their chance to put it away within the confines of the ageless Igloo in Game Six.
Now, we're back to an even playing field. Both teams will be fighting for their respective playoff lives. Only one teams' head coach, however, will be downing massive amounts of fried foods during the intermissions.
You could wake up tomorrow with a smile on your face, wondering which team is next on the road to Lord Stanley.
Or, you could wake up and have to shave your playoff beard.
You might wake up with a few bruises you got while in a celebratory dog pile after the final buzzer tonight, but you won't mind, because your golf clubs can remain nestled neatly in the corner of your garage for at least another week or so.
Or, you might gaze at yourself in your bathroom mirror, you might even take a cold shower and then unknowingly walk out of your house and into your workplace stark naked.
Whatever is going to happen tomorrow, it all starts tonight.
If you're a Caps fan, you might be hinging your playoff hopes on the illegally curved blade of Alex Ojokekin.
Or perhaps you feel that Simeon Varlamov will work some more of his rookie magic and steal another game.
If you're a Pens' fan, maybe you're basing your hope on the fact that Sidney Crosby just won't let his team lose.
Maybe you're aware of Varla-soft's play in the series, but you realize that Marc-Andre Fleury has yet to "steal a game" the way he did in the first round against the Flyers.
Maybe you like to remind people of that Evgeni Malkin guy who has once again fallen relatively silent on the score sheet since dominating the ice in Game Three.
Whatever you're banking on, whatever you're hoping for, tonight's game, and this series, can only end in one of two ways.
The Penguins or Capitals will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Not one, or both, or neither.
One team. One game. One goal—win.
Let's Go Pens.