Put this right up there with the Rangers winning in 1994. Ray Bourque winning in 2001. Dave Andreychuk winning in 2004.
Alex Ovechkin breaking through and winning the Stanley Cup at last is one of the greatest moments in recent Stanley Cup history.
Ovechkin finally gets it after 607 goals, 1,122 points, and over 1,000 games. A career that were it to end sans a Stanley Cup still would’ve been one of the great NHL careers. Then there’s his sidekick Nicklas Backstrom, who will go down as one of the great players of his generation. Backstrom gets his name on the most famous trophy in sports after a 815-game slate that has 590 assists and 799 points to show for it.
This image says it all.
The joy and enthusiasm Ovechkin showed on the ice after the win made the moment even better. You could see the years and years of frustration all coming out at once.
Then there’s Barry Trotz. Nineteen years of being a NHL head coach between the Predators and Capitals. A guy who prior to this season was just never able to get over that hump between Nashville and Washington. Always running into Detroit, or Pittsburgh, or San Jose, or whoever else. Coaching on an expiring contract, Trotz was finally able to break through this year.
That was the theme of this Capitals team. A group of guys that for years were running into everything but a title run. This year none of them were going to be denied.
Washington was the type of team you see every handful of years. Came into the playoffs under the radar, playing well but not among the favorites. And most importably, had a resolve that was unmatched by anyone else.
That’s exactly how they won Game 5 to clinch the Stanley Cup. It was a crazy, back-and-forth game for the final 40 minutes. They went into the third period trailing 3-2, then stormed back for two goals in the final 20 minutes to win in regulation.
It was the type of game you only win if you have the toughness and resiliency the Caps had. And that’s why they’re champions.
Nothing tops this. Obviously what T.J. Oshie, his father who has Alzheimer’s, and his family is going through, you never wish that on anybody. But you could tell how special a moment that was for Oshie, winning that Cup with his father watching. That’s what it’s all about.
And count Oshie in as another guy on this roster that finally shook the ‘couldn’t get over the hump’ label. He was on some really good Blues teams before being traded to the Capitals in 2015. And he’s been one of the key pieces of the puzzle to Washington’s success ever since.
Goal of Game 5
Three goals in the final three games and Devante Smith-Pelly made them all count. But this one was the nicest. Gets inside, then scores as he’s leaving his feet.
Smith-Pelly’s seven postseason goals matched his total from the regular season. The Capitals won six of their final seven games en route to winning the Stanley Cup, and he was one Washington’s best players over that stretch.
Other guys who could’ve won the Conn Smythe
- Evgeny Kuznetsov: Finished the playoffs with 32 points. Only one other player since 1997 had reached that point total in a postseason, when Evgeni Malkin recorded 36 points in 2009.
- Braden Holtby: 16-7, 2.16 GAA, .922 save percentage. Holtby has been sensational in the playoffs, and he was rewarded for it this year.
- T.J. Oshie: Oshie was the catalyst of the second line with Nicklas Backstrom and Jakub Vrana (and Lars Eller at times). That line was the Capitals best at many points of the playoffs.
- John Carlson: Carlson was just the fourth defenseman to record 20 points in a postseason since Brian Leetch hung 34 in the 1994 playoffs. The other three? Chris Pronger in 2006, Duncan Keith in 2015, and Brent Burns in 2016. Have you heard he’ll be an unrestricted free agent?
*Five players with 20-plus points for the Capitals this postseason. First team to do so since the 1991 North Stars.
*Two more reached 15: Lars Eller (18) and Tom Wilson (15).
*12 players on this Capitals roster were first round picks, including Washington’s entire entire top-nine forwards.
- Nicklas Backstrom (4th overall in 2006)
- Andre Burakovsky (23rd overall in 2013)
- Brett Connolly (6th overall in 2010)
- Lars Eller (13th overall in 2007)
- Evgeny Kuznetsov (26th overall in 2010)
- T.J. Oshie (24th overall in 2005)
- Alex Ovechkin (1st overall in 2004)
- Jakub Vrana (13th overall in 2014)
- Tom Wilson (16th overall in 2012)
*Cup-less club is now down to 11: Jets, Canucks, Blues, Sharks, Senators, Predators, Wild, Panthers, Blue Jackets, Sabres, Coyotes.
*Next to win their first Stanley Cup? Going with the Blues.
*Marc-Andre Fleury finished the series with a .853 save percentage.
*Excited to see what this Vegas team looks like come October. They have a lot of cap space, a lot of assets. They can make some noise and be right back in the mix next season.
*The early favorites for next year’s Stanley Cup Final: Tampa Bay out of East, Nashville out of the West.
Taking you out of the blog and into the weekend: 17 years ago on Saturday – Ray Bourque wins his first Stanley Cup.