Last Thursday night the Washington Capitals won the 2018 Stanley Cup. Excitement ensued in the nation’s capital and Alex Ovechkin is still partying somewhere in D.C. The Caps had been stymied in the playoffs year after year and haven’t been able to overcome eastern conference foes like the Pittsburgh Penguins or the New York Rangers. Ovechkin had never made it out of the second round in his career. This year was different. Despite being down at some point in every single series, the Caps were the best team on the ice this postseason. Once they got past the rival Penguins in the vaunted second round, it was as if a giant weight was lifted, and they made a mad dash to the Cup.
Let’s take a look at how meaningful this Stanley Cup win actually was.
This is the Washington Capitals first ever Stanley Cup
The Caps entered the league in 1974. In their first eight seasons, they did not make a single postseason appearance, but since the 1982-83 season, they’ve only missed the playoffs seven times in the last 35 seasons, and only once since 2007. They’ve been a successful franchise during the regular season with minimal postseason success. Before this year, they made the finals one other time, in 1998, but were swept by the Detroit Red Wings. The Caps are now the third major sports franchise in the last year to win a championship for the first time in franchise history. The Houston Astros won their first World Series in baseball back in October, and the Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl in February (the Eagles have won championships before but not since the Super Bowl era began in 1967).
Alex Ovechkin’s Legacy
Ovechkin was drafted with the first overall pick in the 2004 NHL draft. Since then he’s been one of the most decorated players in the league; with the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year), three Hart trophies (MVP), seven Richard trophies (leading goal scorer), a Ross Trophy (leading point scorer), and 11 All Star game appearances. He’s dominated the league since he entered it, but the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy (MVP of the playoffs) have always been missing from his trophy case, and he’s been heavily criticized for it. As the Caps continued to “choke” every year in the playoffs, many believed Ovechkin would join Dan Marino and Karl Malone on the list of “great ones without rings,” but he changed that narrative this season. He won’t ever be looked back on as a great talent who could never win it all. He finally validated his arguable reputation as “the best player in the league.”
A Win for Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. has a team in all four of the major sports leagues; the Redskins in the NFL, the Wizards in the NBA, the Nationals in the MLB, and the Capitals in the NHL. Until now, however, the city had been bereft of a championship for 26 years. The last one came when the Redskins won the Super Bowl in 1992. D.C. sports fans have grown accustomed to disappointment year after year and have become numb to the pain of their under-performing teams. But after the Caps bested the Penguins in six games just a couple weeks ago, it’s as if a fire was lit under the entire city. These were uncharted waters. D.C. hadn’t had any team in a conference championship since the Caps were there in 1998, and a brand new excitement took hold of D.C. fans. When the Caps brought the Stanley Cup home, it reinvigorated the entire fan base and gave the city a reason to celebrate.
What’s next for the Caps?
The Caps have made it as far as the second round of the playoffs four years in a row and should retain the base of this championship team, with the exception of possibly losing John Carlson in free agency. After lifting their second round curse this year, they have the pieces in place to defend their trophy for the next two to three years while Ovechkin rides out the latter years of his prime.