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Our nation’s capital is home to a great sports franchise, consistently contending for Lord Stanley’s Cup, with fierce competitors willing to sacrifice for hockey immortality. 1974 was the year that the Caps first entered the NHL as an expansion team and the immediate results were horrendous. The infamous season result of 8-67-5 remains a league record for lowest winning percentage.
However, a lot has changed over the years, with many star players wearing the Capitals sweater. Among the best to have suited up for Washington are Al Iafrate, Adam Oates, Sergei Gonchar, Kevin Hatcher, Scott Stevens, Olaf Kolzig, Mike Gartner, Dale Hunter, Peter Bondra, and Ron Langway.
Easily inserted into that list are a number of players in the current lineup for the Washington Capitals. A wave of confidence overtakes Capitals fans every time they think about the lineup which is loaded with talent in the likes of Nicklas Backstrom, TJ Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson (who just signed a new eight year deal with the club), and netminder Braden Holtby. Team Captain Alex Ovechkin, considered to be one of the world’s best hockey players, keeps his squad in every game with a mix of speed and finesse, paired with the ability to be physical and play with grit.
The history of the Washington Capitals showed a team that had only one conference championship to its credit with a resulting Stanley Cup appearance in 1998 where they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings. However, this would change in 2018, with the Capitals climbing their way to the top of the Eastern Conference in a hard fought playoffs that resulted in a Stanley Cup Finals battle against the Vegas Golden Knights.
The 2017-18 season saw the Capitals surge to a record of 49-26-7 for 105 points. That success would mean nothing if the resulting playoff appearance didn’t end in a decisive victory. Cruising through the first round, Washington sent Columbus home in six games. The second round matchup against Pittsburgh seemed inevitable. In the Ovechkin era, Washington has never been able to beat the Penguins and had never advanced beyond the second round.
In an epic six game series, the Capitals were finally able to clear out the demons of their past and chart a new course for their franchise as Ovechkin won the battle against Crosby and the Capitals pressed on to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. While Tampa has been a perennial contender for the Cup, Washington took them out of the running last season with a come-from-behind series victory in seven games.
An epic showdown with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights set the stage for Washington to earn their first Stanley Cup victory. The phenomenal series, lasting five games, ended with Lars Eller putting one past Marc-Andre Fleury to lift the Caps to a 4-3 victory. Ovechkin and company lifted the Cup proudly in front of the crowd in Las Vegas which featured a good amount of Washington fans in attendance. DC is known for rocking their red and did so this past summer with the Stanley Cup in tow. No one took this more to heart than Alex Ovechkin would could be seen partying around DC for weeks afterwards with the Cup.
Just a few weeks later this championship group found themselves looking for someone to manage the group from the bench as Head Coach Barry Trotz tendered his resignation, eventually ending up as the coach of the New York Islanders. If the Capitals are to repeat as champions they will do so under Todd Reirden. Being promoted from assistant to head coach has kept some consistency for this club and will hopefully translate into continuing the winning formula. After being traded, bought out, and released, Orpik re-signed with the Washington Capitals and has returned for another year. Tom Wilson is also back on a new six year deal worth $31 million. Picking up a fast veteran player with solid playoff experience, the Caps are hoping that Carl Hagelin will be instrumental to their success down the playoff stretch. For further reading about the Washington Capitals click here.