We'll soon learn everything we need to know about the Washington Capitals

Geoff Burke / USA Today Spotrs

The Washington Capitals have been here before.

Holding destiny in their hands with the opportunity to advance to the conference finals with one more win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Wednesday night in D.C. presents the Capitals with a huge opportunity to silence their haters.

Beating the Penguins would obviously be sweet enough. But, more importantly, what would be even tastier is the prospect of facing the Ottawa Senators in the next round.

All due respect to the Senators - who have had a storybook year - but the fact remains: they are a club that Washington matches up very well with on paper.

The Caps were 2-1 in three regular-season games this past campaign against Ottawa. That number certainly doesn't jump of the page, and, realistically, it doesn't mean jack unless Washington can step up in Game 7 and get the job done against Pittsburgh.

Seriously, though, how long have we been waiting for the Capitals to turn the page?

Each year since Alex Ovechkin entered the league in 2005, Washington - to some degree - has been pegged with lofty expectations. Expectations it has never fulfilled

Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Kevin Shattenkirk, Braden Holtby - the talented list goes on. Most teams would kill to have those kinds of players.

Nevertheless, this is the situation that Barry Trotz and his club are in.

Win, and move on to the conference finals for the first time since 1998. Lose, and who knows what happens next. Blow the team up? Trade Ovechkin? Fire Trotz?

All of those scenarios seem wild, if not foolish, but what other options does general manager Brian MacLellan realistically have after giving this core group more than enough talent to work with year in and year out.

MacLellan's unrestricted free-agent list is lengthy and star-studded, with names like Justin Williams, Oshie, and Shattenkirk set to potentially move elsewhere.

Just another wrinkle in this narrative - the pressure is clearly on Washington to win now.

Wednesday's Game 7 between these two clubs is primed to be the best game of the playoffs, so far. But it also offers hockey fans the best chance to see exactly what the Washington Capitals are made of.

For better, or for worse.

We'll soon learn everything we need to know about the Washington Capitals
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