‘Do you miss it?” asked the reporter, and Nicklas Backstrom smiled a little Swedish smile, faint and ambiguous. “No,” he said.
“Really?” asked the reporter.
“Yes,” said Backstrom, the smile still an imprint on his face.
This was before the Washington Capitals lost Game 5 of their second-round series to the New York Rangers in stomach-hollowing fashion, allowing a goal with 6.6 seconds left to tie, and another 95 seconds into overtime.
But in the morning, with everything in front of him, Washington’s skilled centre was a believer, smile and all, in the system. The old Washington Capitals, sure, they used to play in the fast lane, whooping and spinning through the air, always pushing forward. They scored 57 more goals than anybody else in 2009-10, a staggering margin, and won a Presidents’ Trophy. And they lost to Montreal, a group of self-sacrificing grinders with a white-hot goalie, in the first round.