WASHINGTON — The Capitals have two things going right for them at the moment: They are still up 2-1 in their series with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and they do not have home-ice advantage.
The playoff woes of D.C.’s big four sports teams are well-documented — this series is the first conference final since 1998, and the town hasn’t had a title winner since 1991.
Within that streak, though, is an inexplicably bad record in front of home crowds.
The Capitals are now 38-40 in the postseason at Capital One Arena, the Wizards marginally better at 17-15. The Redskins are 1-2 in postseason games at FedEx Field, but have struggled in all seasons, holding the Trotz
NFL’s thirdworst home record in a home stadium.
The Nationals deserve more than a sentence, but suffice it to say their 3-8 postseason mark at home is the stuff of Halloween stories.
“Just play the way we do on the road,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz offered after Tuesday’s Game 3 loss. “Just pretend like you’re on the road.”
Trotz may have to look into hotels near the arena, or perhaps charter a flight from Dulles to National. Home playoff records of professional Washington teams at current venues Team W Capitals 38 Wizards 17 Redskins 1 Nationals 3 L 40 15 2 8
Across the NHL in the last decade, the home team is 477-392 in playoff action. The Caps have flipped the script — they’ve won eight of their last nine on the road, and four of their last 11 at home.
There’s no need to wait for the autopsy to come back on Tuesday’s game — the Capitals took six penalties and allowed two power-play goals, holes that are tough for any team to escape.
But the home-road splits are baffling for a franchise that has produced quality squads for the last decade.
The home crowd didn’t seem to be the reason Tuesday — the energy level was high from the beginning and fans turned their enthusiasm back up after a second-period goal, but ultimately a three-goal deficit only provides so much to work with.
The Capitals can still get a stranglehold on the series with a Game 4 victory on Thursday. If not, they’ll at least be comforted by the notion that Game 5 is in Tampa.
And if it comes back to D.C. for Game 6? Maybe petition the league for a change of venue — the Caps are 2-0 when playing outdoors in the Washington area.