The Washington Capitals are Stanley Cup Champions. You read that right. The Caps are Stanley Cup champs for the first time in their 43-year history, after beating the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in Game 5.
I have taken time to gather my thoughts and put together some coherent thoughts. But here was my initial reaction:
As a long-time Caps fan, after many years of playoff heartbreak and disappointment, I never thought that this day would come. I had gotten so used to the Caps being a great regular season team who became choke artists in the playoffs.
The Caps won the cup after being down in each series. They went down 2-0 to Columbus in the opening round, 1-0 to Pittsburgh in round 2, 3-2 to Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Finals, and Vegas took Game 1 of the Finals.
Like I said in my Game 5 preview, the word that defined this Caps team was resiliency. There were many moments in these playoffs that Caps teams of the past would have quit. Moments in each round. Even in Game 5 there were moments where prior Caps teams would have just packed it in and prepared for Game 6. But not this team.
The Caps entered the third period down 3-2. Vegas was in attack mode, knowing they had to win to stay alive. Then this happened:
And then with 7:37 left in the third period this happened:
Lars Eller buried the puck in the open net from behind Marc Andre Fleury.
Who would have guessed that a guy who scored a total of seven goals in the regular season would tie the game up and that a third-line center would score the game-winning goal in the Stanley Cup clinching game?
Alex Ovechkin, who for years people have spread the false narrative that he disappears in the playoffs, was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner, awarded to the playoffs MVP, after finishing with the most goals in this year’s postseason.
It was truly wonderful seeing a man who has fought so hard for so many years to win a championship. Seeing him finally hoist Lord Stanley was as awesome as his raw emotion all throughout the playoffs. He showed it not only when he scored, but also when his teammates scored. He was a man on a mission and it was easy to tell how bad he wanted it.
“It means everything. This moment we have been waiting for a long long time. Since day one,” Ovechkin said postgame. “It’s been a tough time, but we fight through it and we get results.”
“This is going home to our families, our fans, and it’s just something special.”
The streets of Washington erupted when the clock hit zero. Here are some of the sights and sounds of Washington D.C.
Then, there was this.
As I have said before this team was different than all of those underachieving and disappointing Caps teams. They may not have made a splashy big time pickup at the trade deadline like in past seasons. Instead, this year, the Caps made some lowkey under-the-radar key additions at the deadline.
This included the trade for Michal Kempny from the Blackhawks. Kempny played significant minutes for the Caps in the playoffs, paired on their top line with John Carlson.
This year the Caps were focused on playing as hard as they could for as long as they could.
“Years past, it felt like we were like, ‘We’re going to win this year,’” T.J. Oshie told the New York Times. “This year, it was more so like, ‘We’re going to work this year, and we’re going to outwork teams. We’re going to play longer than they are.’ And we did that.”
The Caps certainly did that. They were resilient and they never gave up, just like Caps fans, whose support never wavered.