By Sam Scanlon ’19
For the first time in history, the Washington Capitals are at the top of the hockey world after defeating the Las Vegas Golden Knights in five games to win the Stanley Cup. The sheer fact that Las Vegas reached the Stanley Cup final was in itself an outstanding moment. Seeing Alexander Ovechkin and the rest of the Washington Capitals reign as champions is undoubtedly the best sports moment of the summer.
Ovechkin, one of the highest NHL goal scorers of our generation, has been criticized for never winning a Stanley Cup. Until now, some experts have discounted Ovechkin when considering best players of all time; therefore, seeing him raise the Cup for his team was special to watch.
It seemed as though the 2016-2017 “super” team would capture the organization’s first title. When they fell short and subsequently lost Justin Williams, Nate Schmidt, and Kevin Shattenkirk, the 2017-2018 team was certainly battling against the odds.
However, the Capitals still maintained the rights to powerhouse forwards Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, and Evgeny Kuznetsov as well as a top 10 NHL defenseman, John Carlson who led all NHL defensemen with 68 points last season.
Although the Capitals appeared solid on paper, it takes more than a good roster to win the Stanley Cup, a trophy which is often referred to as the hardest trophy to win in professional sports. The Capitals’ “Big 5” carried out their roles as they finished top five in team scoring for both the regular season and postseason. However, they had another underdog story of their own.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Capitals found themselves down three games to two in the best-of-seven games series to the Tampa Bay Lighting.
With their backs to the wall and the potential for another season to fall short of the Finals, Washington dominated Game 6, winning 3-0 to force a decisive Game 7 in Tampa Bay.
In Game 7, Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game giving Washington control and momentum on the ice.
Despite playing in a hostile crowd, Washington dominated and won on the road for the third time in the series, winning 4-0 to seal a trip to the Finals.
After dropping the first game in the finals, Washington came back to win four games in a row to seal their first title.
Lars Eller, the first Danish player to bring home the Stanley Cup, had a career year as he finished his season ranked sixth on the team in points. His late goal in the third period broke a 3-3 tie to top the Golden Knights 4-3 to clinch the title.
After the final horn buzzed, Ovechkin reflected on how big the moment was. “We did it. That’s all that matters. Look at the smiles on my teammates. This is something you’ll never forget. This moment, I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I’m so happy. It’s unbelievable.”
With Ovechkin and Washington winning their first Cup, Eller scoring the winning goal and bringing the Cup to Denmark, and watching Oshie share a special moment with his ill father on the ice after lifting the Cup, it is hard not to tip your cap to the Washington Capitals.