The Washington Capitals did something this season that most have become used to over the last decade: They failed to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
What makes the 2015-16 version of the Capitals shortcoming even more disappointing was the feeling that the team put together by General Manager Brian MacLellan and Head Coach Barry Trotz was good enough to go the distance and win the franchises first Stanley Cup.
And for most of the season, it appeared to be going that way.
Despite a 56 win season, the President's Trophy, a Vezina trophy candidate (and future winner) in Braden Holtby, and winning the Metropolitan Division by 14 points, Washington ran into a team that got hot in March, has a history of taking the Capitals out in the playoffs and now finds itself in the Eastern Conference Finals, a place where Washington has never been in the Ovechkin era.
The Penguins have won eight of the nine playoff series they have met the Capitals in and after Tuesday night's Game 6 win, continued the trend of Washington falling short of the conference finals, a place they have not been since the 1998 playoffs when they went to the Stanley Cup Final.
You may not find many in Pittsburgh who are sympathetic to a great player like Alex Ovechkin's playoff plight, but there are others who would like to see him lift the Stanley Cup at least once before his career ends. He is only 30, so it is not like this season was his last chance to do it, but it felt like the best chance to date for the Capitals to do it.
I wrote a post last year highlighting all the times the Capitals have "choked" in past playoff series. This year, it is hard to claim that they choked this year. It might be easier to say that they simply ran into a team that was better than them at this point of the season.
Blame the NHL's bracket system for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, blame history, or perhaps blame the universe. But in the end, the Capitals continued a trend that fits them like a glove.