The Washington Capitals are Stanley Cup Champions. After a tremendous battle of heart and soul, they finally lift the most coveted prize in hockey. Who would have thought? The team was a different beast altogether this season. but it was again highly stacked with talent, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov were a dominant force. But it is the unsung heroes who constantly battle and perform each game who deserve some recognition.
2018 Stanley Cup: Washington Capitals Unsung Heroes
There are too many to mention them all, it is one main reason why the Capitals won the Cup for the first time. The hard work, passion, and diversity of these players made the difference. They were instrumental in beating the two-time Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins; the formidable leaders of the Atlantic Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning; and the surprising Western Conference Champions, the Vegas Golden Knights.
T.J. Oshie is by no means a stranger to the limelight but it is not until you look closer does it becomes apparent how much the team depends on the 31-year-old.
Initially, the Washington forward struggled to find his groove after an injury early in the regular season. He only contributed two goals and eight assists over a period of 27 games.
Thankfully for the Capitals, Oshie went into high gear during the playoffs. Achieving a playoff career high of eight goals and 13 assists for 21 points. But it was not only his offensive production that made him a valuable asset. His positional awareness has also been outstanding. Oshie was everywhere, scoring goals, playmaking, dishing out the big hits (not to mention receiving a bunch). In these playoffs alone, Oshie had 57 hits and 21 blocked shots, not bad at all.
Oshie’s effort and determination throughout the playoffs has been epic and fully deserves the recognition.
Although the 29-year-old centre has a tendency to step up in the playoffs, the Danish forward was sorely needed when injuries threatened to topple the Capitals. First when Oshie was out, then later with Nicklas Backstrom. Like many, this simmering flame had a career best during the regular season with 18 goals and 20 assists for 38 points. He ignited in the playoffs with seven goals and eleven assists. With performances at key times it took the pressure off the rest of the club.
Lars Eller. Savior in the First Round. Hero in the Stanley Cup Final pic.twitter.com/jn1If0rxb9
— Mike Morreale (@mikemorrealeNHL) June 8, 2018
Although the Russian defenceman has made some blunders during his time. There is no doubt that the 26-year-old is an unsung hero of the Capitals. Playing a full 82 games in regular season, and a full 2r games in the playoffs and playing the second most ice time on the team, behind only John Carlson.
Orlov, like many, has also had a career season and playoff-high in goals. However, Orlov’s effort and steadying hand are what makes him important for the Caps.
Defence has been a struggle for the Caps in recent years, Orlov’s ability and skill have been a cut above the rest. His possession exit percentage is one of the best in the league and was particularly prominent in the Lightning series.
Of all the defensemen I've seen this postseason the two that have really impressed me have been Dmitry Orlov and Shea Theodore.
Orlov has been particularly good in this Tampa series. He's been handling the Lightning forecheck that gave the Bruins defensemen fits. pic.twitter.com/DZ426n3Wem
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) May 15, 2018
Although Orlov does not get much positive press, it’s clear that his performance makes him one of the many unsung heroes for the Capitals this 2017-18 season.
The Canadian forward is a big player with a big personality to match. What makes the 25-year-old a part of the unsung heroes band? Well DSP is not the most productive of players out there, only scoring seven goals, with nine assists for 16 points in the regular season. The young forward took his game up a notch in these playoffs with seven goals.
What makes DSP worthy of recognition is he scores these goals in pivotal moments. The intimidating forward scored seven goals in the playoffs. He scored the game-tying goal in the third period of Game 5. He also had two game-winning goals, the most recent being in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. The six foot forwards goals shifted momentum throughout the playoffs.
Smith-Pelly’s presence on the ice is also key, giving out 76 hits in the playoffs. This was bested only by Ovechkin and Tom Wilson. The versatility of the Ontario native is apart of this, he goes wherever he is needed, be it the top line or the bottom six.
Teammate Jay Beagle said it best, “His game is one that can play all four lines which is hard to have. There are not too many guys who can play on the first, second, third or fourth line. He plays the left and the right. He’s incredibly smart out there, easy to play with.”
There not many players that can do this effectively, and makes DSP unique in his own way.
This can be said of many of the Washington Capitals this 2017-18 season. Although not as talented as some, they wanted it this year. The effort and determination reflected that, and it paid off for them. Of course, the big celebrities were a massive part of that, no arguments there. However, without these players quietly putting the effort in each night, it could have been a different story.