Ovechkin, the Capitals fearless leader, finally has his cup after 12 seasons of disappointment. In a thrilling back-to-back battle, the Capitals rallied for the victory, ending the Golden Knights fairytale inaugural season in Game Five.
Washington Capitals Stanley Cup Victory Is Their First Ever
Despite a Golden Knights victory in Game One, the Golden Misfits as they have come to be known, cracked under the pressure of the Stanley Cup Final. Their season, already too good to be true, couldn’t stand in the way of Ovechkin and his promise to his team at the beginning of this year. It was clear that nothing was going to stand in the way of this Capitals team and the Stanley Cup. After years of falling short in the playoffs, their time had finally come.
The heroes of this Capitals team were numerous. First and foremost, Ovechkin, who needs no introduction. The first overall pick of the 2004 NHL Draft by the Capitals is regarded across the league as one of the greatest NHL players of all-time. He earned 26 points in 23 post-season games and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy. Although he was the leading goal-scorer of the playoffs, Ovechkin will be the first to say it was a team effort.
Next up, Evgeny Kuznetsov. When he and Brayden McNabb collided hard in Game Two, it did not look positive for the Russian-native. Kuznetsov’s recoil and absence from the rest of the game looked like a broken arm. However, he came back relentlessly in Game Three and continued his incredible performance that we’d seen throughout the playoffs. Kuznetsov had a total of 31 points in 23 post-season games. T.J. Oshie was indispensable for the Capitals as well, consistently showing physicality over the Knights and scoring eight goals and tallying 13 assists.
Additionally, the Capitals wouldn’t be hoisting sport’s greatest trophy without Braden Holtby. After sitting to begin the playoffs, Holtby rebounded with incredible tenacity. He continued to stay sharp throughout the series, making the save of the year in Game Two on Alex Tuch as the final minutes ticked closer to zero. Holtby, the 2015-16 Vezina winner can finally add the ultimate honor to his resume.
Despite a strong performance on home ice for Game One, The Knights started to show signs of weakness in Game Two. Their aggression caused unnecessary penalties and sustained puck possession was increasingly difficult to achieve. Earning most of their tallies on short breakaways wasn’t cutting it. Throughout Games Three and Four, the Capitals took advantage of the Golden Knights mistakes. The Knights had sloppy turnovers and poor defensive zone coverage, stemming from their building frustration.
Their veteran netminder, Marc-Andre Fleury showed cracks, unable to make up for the breakdowns in front of the net. Game Four was exceptionally poor for Fleury. He had an extremely uncharacteristic .739 save percentage. Once a favorite for the Conn Smythe himself, Fleury lacked the focus possessed by Holtby. He had issues tracking the puck and remaining controlled.
Offensively, the Capitals did a phenomenal job shutting down the Golden Knights top scorers. William Karlsson had only two points in the series. Jon Marchessault and James Neal also tallied a lowly two points in the five-game series. The ice tilted completely towards the nation’s capital quickly. When Neal missed a wide open net in Game Four, the momentum for the Knights changed completely. That is one memory Neal won’t forget for the rest of his career.
The Golden Knights and the Capitals made history this season. The Knights have secured their place as the most successful expansion team in sports history. The Capitals have banished over four decades of disappointment.
Ovechkin is one of the most deserving players of this honor with over 1,000 points in his 13-year career. He is a big part of the Capitals Stanley Cup victory. Raise that Cup high Ovi, you’ve earned it.
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