Friday, 8 June 2018

Capital W

There have been a number of opportunities in the past where it was expected that the Washington Capitals would ascend to the apex of the NHL mountain. Led by Alexander Ovechkin, they won President's Trophies, they played incredible inspired offence, and they had great goaltending, but they always seemed to fall short for some reason. Most times, it was Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, but 2018 saw the Capitals exorcise those demons en route to Washington's first-ever Stanley Cup victory!

As a Penguins fan, you never want to see one of your arch-rivals not only oust your team from the playoffs, but go on to win the sport's biggest prize, but I have to hand it to the Capitals as they seemed to get better with every round. They started slowly in the Columbus series before making a goaltender change that saw Holtby begin his incredible run. They outskated and overpowered the Penguins in their annual spring meeting. They outhit, wore down, and disrupted the Lightning at every turn. And then they out-Vegased the Vegas Golden Knights in forcing turnovers and scoring off those rushes. In every sense, the Capitals were the best team for the last three months.

Alex Ovechkin became the first Russian-born player to captain a Stanley Cup-winning team. The Capitals erased 43 years of "almost", "next year", and "so close" with their victory last night, and they saw Ovechkin win the Conn Smythe Trophy after he set the franchise record for goals in one postseason with 15.

"It's just like a dream," Ovechkin said.

The Capitals set a record for most roads wins in a postseason with ten. Each of their series wins came on the road, and they were a perfect 4-0 in those games. Lars Eller became the first Danish-born player to win the Stanley Cup, and he had a big goal last night as he scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal at 12:23 of the third period on a rebound past Marc-Andre Fleury to help the Capitals claim their spot among the champions.

"He was so far out I couldn't get in front of him, which is usually where the rebound comes," Eller told's Dan Rosen. "So I got behind him and the puck just squeaks through. Usually, Connolly shoots between the legs, and it was just at the right place at the right moment."

Here's Alex Ovechkin on winning the Stanley Cup.

I'm happy for Alex Ovechkin. He's long-suffered the catcalls of not being as good as Crosby to whom he is often compared due to Washington not having won a Stanley Cup. He's had to endure a decade of questions of "what went wrong" when the Capitals fell short. He's always been a professional in answering those questions and never ducking from them, so he earned the right to enjoy this victory after leading the Capitals to the promised land.

You have to wonder, though, if this would have been the end result had Ovechkin and the NHL players gone to the Olympics as Ovechkin had promised to do. We'll never know that answer nor is it important at this time, but it's always going to be one of those unanswered "what ifs" to which we'll never be privy.

In any case, my congratulations go out tonight to the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals who rightfully earned this Stanley Cup victory. A big shout-out to Manitoba's Barry Trotz who will hopefully bring the Silver Chalice back to the Keystone Province, and a stick-tap to Chandler Stevenson who stated that his celebration will take place in Humboldt, Saskatchewan.

The Washington Capitals: your 2018 Stanley Cup Champions!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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