For the first time in 44 years, the Washington Capitals are Stanley Cup champions. The 1974 expansion team won the first title in franchise history with a 4-3 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game Five. The long-suffering fan base that has seen more President’s Trophies than Conference Championships in the team’s history can finally breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate their team getting over the hump. The Stanley Cup belongs to the Capitals in 2018.
Leading the charge for Washington in the postseason and in the deciding game was of course Alex Ovechkin. The franchise leader in scoring fittingly led the team in playoff goal scoring and set the franchise record for goals in a playoff by notching his 15th en route to a win the first title in franchise history. Evgeny Kuznetsov led the team with 32 points in the postseason, adding an assist in Game Five and leading all forwards in ice time. Lars Eller potted the game-winning goal mid-way through the third period to cap off an excellent postseason in which he took his game to the next level and was a clutch presence for the Capitals. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the play of goaltender Braden Holtby, who won back the starter’s job early in the postseason after a tough regular season and went on to make brilliant save after brilliant save these past month, especially in the Final. Not to be forgotten are key contributors like long-time Capitals Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson and Jay Beagle, T.J. Oshie, Matt Niskanen, and Brooks Orpik among others. Head coach Barry Trotz should also be commended for his excellent work and on a career that, like his superstar forward, has always lacked one thing: a title. Not anymore, as Trotz and the Caps are champs.
However, this win is also about the players that came before this team who have long waited for a title to come to Washington. Peter Bondra, Mike Gartner, Dale Hunter, Olaf Kolzig and others can all enjoy what this team has accomplished and what the last four decades have led to.
The achievements of George McPhee, Gerard Gallant, and Vegas Golden Knights, an expansion team in their inaugural season, cannot possibly be overstated. Yet, this franchise has a bright future and is unlikely to have a long wait for their own title. Washington fans had waited long enough. After 44 years, the Washington Capitals are champs and D.C. is a title town once again after 26 years.