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Washington Capitals Community Should Focus on Team, Not Pittsburgh Penguins

Laura FalconAnalyst IDecember 22, 2010

WASHINGTON - APRIL 15: Washington mascot Slapshot waves a flag during the game between the Washington Capitals and the Montreal Canadiens in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 15, 2010 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The intensity building up to Thursday's grudge match against the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins just went up a few notches.

Caps fans, in the dying minutes of a decisive victory over the New Jersey Devils, started a "Crosby sucks" chant following by a "We want Pittsburgh" chant. Once the incident hit the social networks, fans from both teams had plenty to say about the matter.

In sum, Caps fans are pumped after watching their team win two straight following an eight-game losing streak, and they are ready to battle their rivals from the North. Pens fans, meanwhile, are chuckling behind their computers, wondering what's so great about beating the two of the worst teams in the NHL before quickly reminding Caps fans of their "success" against the Pens.

The jeering between the two clubs is as natural as a check in the boards. The rivalry rooted in Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin that blew up in 2009 when the two teams met in the semifinals made the hatred more than it ever was in the 90s.

Looking specifically at the last three seasons, I have watched as my hometown of the DC Metropolitan area become black and gold obsessed, seemingly more so than a desperation to win a Stanley Cup. Despite the fact Washington isn't Pittsburgh's main rival, this is a behavior I expect from a frustrated fanbase.

However, not from the team's management and coaching staff.

I cannot count how many times I have seen Caps Head Coach Bruce Boudreau openly compare the Caps to the Pens in press conferences and other interviews. The most recent instance is in the first episode of the 24/7 HBO series when he spoke about the contrasting locker rooms with Pittsburgh's being "laughing and joking. And [HBO is] going to be talking about the two teams, one struggling, and one having the time of their lives."

Later on in the episode, owner Ted Leonsis spoke about the overwhelming pressure on the Caps to win the Stanley Cup and that "Pittsburgh has already won theirs."

As if there's a limit to how many Stanley Cups a team can win.

I frequent Leonsis' blog and his mentions of the Caps in comparison to how the Pens are doing or have done aren't uncommon either.

When I turn on the TV, I see Boudreau's Hadeed Carpet Cleaning commercial where he whacks a stuffed penguin hanging from a string.

How much time the Caps spend on demonstrating their hate for the Pens has become comical, mainly because their hatred has come back to bite them in the playoffs, and not just against the Pens.

While the constant comparison between the teams can be justified—after all, the media does it all the time—it would behoove the entire community to cut it out and keep their eye on the real prize because, at points, it sounds like the prize is defeating Pittsburgh, not winning the Stanley Cup.

Major problem for the Caps.

It's a problem because the Caps' recent losing streak, despite the fact it no longer exists, shows there are plenty of things they should focus on and Pittsburgh should be nowhere on this list. Having watched the Caps' latest victories, their efforts leave much to be desired.

Defense is still a major Achilles heel, regardless of the Scott Hannan acquisition. Offensive stars haven't been pulling their weight which magnifies mistakes from rookies goaltenders.

In short, the Pens should be the least of their worries.

Their focus should be on themselves and improving their game, not checking out how the Pens are doing and how they're doing in comparison. The obsession has done nothing but fuel the fire and show Pens fans that we're constantly in their heads.

I can honestly say the Pens staff don't give the Caps the time of day. Coach Dan Bylsma and GM Ray Shero in the HBO series, regardless of the fact they were in a winning streak, focused on the the Pens and no one else.

There was no mention of the Caps from either of them.

That's the way it should be because putting focus on another means less focus where they can make a difference.

Despite being a Pittsburgh fan, I always had my respect for Washington's team until recent seasons where the management has done nothing but embarrass the organization. In fact, I don't have any problems with the team itself, which is why it's so frustrating to see this team represented so poorly by its staff.

Moments like this, Caps fans chanting for Pittsburgh at the end of the Devils game, tell me the fans have learned from Boudreau and Leonsis. It has become expected.

In the end, the game on Thursday and even the Winter Classic will only yield two points to the winners of the game and some temporary bragging rights.

That's it.

As for me, I want more than that for my team. I want some good hockey that remains consistent throughout the rest of the season and carries the Pens to a fourth Stanley Cup.

I think it's time the Caps management and coaching staff, and even the fans to an extent, learn that focusing on the Pens rather than the Cup makes them look foolish.

It also hasn't done them any good thus far.

Laura Falcon is a Featured Columnist for the Pittsburgh Penguins.   Follow her on Twitter or email her at lfalcon@mail.umw.edu with any comments or questions.

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