The Washington Capitals started playing hockey in D.C, in 1974. They won 8 games in their initial season. By the mid 2000's, they were a force in the regular season as the great Alexander Ovechkin led them to greater heights.
But there was constant frustration in the playoffs in recent years. The Caps always were loaded with talent, but couldn't make it past the second round. The Pittsburgh Penguins were usually their Achilles Heel.
This year it was different. In the 44th year of the franchise, the Capitals came together, particularly in the postseason, and captured their first Stanley Cup title in franchise history defeating the Vegas Golden Knights in 5 games with the Stanley Cup clinching victory last night in Vegas, 4-3.
It was spectacular for a starving fan base that had waited 26 years since their last championship, when the Redskins won the Super Bowl in 1992. Years of frustration for the Great 8, Ovechkin, were taking their toll on the franchise and the city..
But Ovechkin and a fabulous cast around him changed all that in 2018.
In the playoffs, the Caps were in major wars every series. They fell behind the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round, 2-0, losing the first 2 at home, only to roar back and capture the next 4 games to move on to the second round.
Then it was a rematch with the 2 time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, which had frustrated the Caps time and again in the playoffs. Sydney Crosby and the Pens just seemed to have the Caps' number. After losing game 1 at home, it was like here we go again. But the Caps won game 2 and won game 3 in Pittsburgh as the Great 8 scored the game winning goal with a minute left. The Caps went on to defeat the Penguins, 4-2 to advance to the conference finals, and they looked like they were cookin.
In the third round they took a 2-0 lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning only to lose the next 3 and were on the ropes in game 6 at home. Then the Caps, in the words of awesome wing Devante Smith-Pelly, played the perfect game and defeated the Lightning at home to send it to a game 7 in Tampa, where the Caps dominated the Lightning 4-0.
Then they lost the opener to Vegas, only to take the next 4 games and capture the Stanley Cup.
Ovechkin was selected as the Conn Smythe Trophy winner for the Most Valuable Player in the playoffs, and he was spectacular. But so were goalie Braden Holtby, who made stop after stop, center Evgeny Kuznetov, who scored big goal after big goal, and the great wing T.J. Oshie, who made clutch play after clutch play. The enforcer, Tom Wilson, brought it with a physical toughness that permeated throughout his team, and he's one heckuva hockey player as well. Smith-Pelly was superb, and scored one of the most athletic goals you'll ever want to see last night to put the Caps up 4-3 in the third period, the eventual winning score for the Caps. Smith-Pelly was phenomenally clutch.
All in all a spectacular team, and a passionate fan base that has been waiting for this moment seemingly forever.
Oshie in the postgame interview with NBC Sports' superb NHL reporter Pierre McGuire, was asked by Pierre what it meant to win it for his family. His mother and father were in Vegas for the game. His father is suffering from Alzheimer's. An emotional, but composed Oshie responded.
"My dad," Oshie paused, "He doesn't remember much. But he'll remember this. He'll remember this forever."
T.J. expressed the feeling of this remarkable team. The wait is over. The Caps are the best hockey team in the world. And there was no doubt about it.