Disappointment stings much more when it’s preceded by a dollop of hope. The Capitals are 8-2 in the first game of their 10 playoff series against the Penguins, and yet are 1-9 in those series. Pittsburgh won Game 1 last season and in the quarterfinals in 2000, when the Penguins finished 14 points behind the Capitals in the standings but made a declarative statement in their 7-0 Game 1 win, thanks to four points from future Capitals star Jaromir Jagr.
“It’s stressful,” he explained, “and you freak out.”
Truth be told, Mullen ruffled some feathers early on, butting heads within the athletic department as well as the local media. But as he put it, “You don’t know what you don’t know sometimes.” Frustrated with a culture that had come to accept being average, he had to get things done the hard way.
Doolittle: I’m not punting on any of them after one month. Picking the second wild cards was my tender spot last year, and this year I picked the Phillies and Blue Jays. Sure, it can change fast, but I feel pretty good about those picks right now. I guess the worst-looking choice so far is tabbing Miami’s Lewis Brinson as my NL Rookie of the Year. Luckily, with that team, he’ll have plenty of chances to right the ship.
Schoenfield: Well, this wasn’t a prediction, but when Ohtani was struggling in spring training, I suggested it would make sense to give him a few weeks in the minors to start the season. Oops.
Miller: All of them. It’s an act of extreme foolishness and hubris to predict baseball. Never predict baseball.
And he did. He pushed through the changes he felt he needed, including new facilities and other much-needed resources, and he gradually built Mississippi State into a program that made a habit out of finding under-recruited prospects like Fletcher Cox and Dak Prescott and transforming them into superstars. The former whipping boys of the SEC became almost unrecognizable, reaching bowl games in eight consecutive seasons. The Bulldogs even reached No. 1 in the polls for the first time in school history, spending five weeks in the top spot in 2014.
After nine seasons in Starkville, Mullen had become one of the hottest coaching prospects in the country. And he’d grown up. By the time Florida came calling this past December, the now-45-year-old coach and father of two knew he had a plan to bring the Gators back to dominance.