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Leonsis thoroughly enjoying playoff journey

by Mike G. Morreale /
ARLINGTON, Va. - Washington Capitals Chairman and owner Ted Leonsis was front and center within his team's dressing room at Kettler Capitals Iceplex Friday, taking in the sights and sounds of the playoff atmosphere.

For Leonsis, watching his team eliminate the New York Rangers in the seventh game of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Tuesday was a sight he'll cherish for the rest of his life.

"When (Sergei) Fedorov scored that goal to put us ahead in Game 7 (a 2-1 victory) and, then, followed by the five minutes of cheering afterward, that was deeply emotional for me because you could tell that's a fan base that loves their team," Leonsis said. "I expect this love affair to be a long and positive one. I think we've accomplished every single thing we need to do except win the Stanley Cup and, as an organizational leader, it's my job to get all of the 'buts' out of the way. Every business, every organization, will say 'We want to achieve this, but in order to do so …' I feel we no longer have any 'buts' and just have to focus on a singular goal -- win the Stanley Cup.

"If and when we win a Stanley Cup, this marriage between team and fans will be forever."

Leonsis is excited to be facing a team in the Eastern Conference Semifinals that was built similarly to his -- by way of good drafting and solid free-agent acquisitions. Still, he wouldn't have minded if his team drew New Jersey in the second round either.

"I thought we would be in New Jersey and the only reason I would rather play New Jersey is because it's easier to take the train to their new arena (Prudential Center)," Leonsis said. "But, sooner or later, you're going to have to play the Penguins. They are a magnificently crafted team. Frankly, you can look and plot their development and ours. They blew up their team by trading (Jaromir) Jagr to us and, a couple of years later, we had to blow up our team by trading Jagr and rebuilding through the draft."

Leonsis knows the Penguins are also determined to get back to the Cup Final and finish the deal this season after dropping a six-game series to the Detroit Red Wings last season.

"The Pens are thinking the same thing we are," Leonsis said. "And that's what great for the NHL in that these are two great young teams with exciting players and this will be one heck of a series."
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