Last night the Washington Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in a thrilling 4-3 game to clinch their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Following a decade of disappointment in the playoffs, Washington overcame all their old roadblocks on the way to winning the Cup.
The Capitals were down 2-0, having lost both games at home in the first-round against the Columbus Blue Jackets. They then survived double overtime in game three as they would go on to win four-in-a-row. Washington then defeated the two-time defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins in six. After losing seven consecutive playoff series to them the Capitals finally defeated their rivals.
Then they got in a 3-2 hole against the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, the Capitals won game six and then overcame their awful game seven history to take the series. After dropping game one to Vegas, Washington then won the next four games to take the series. They also managed to avoid setting up speculation that this could be there biggest blown 3-1 lead of them all by clinching last night.
The Capitals, Ovechkin and more
With their win in their Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals are no longer on the list of expansion teams in the four major sports (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) to have been playing over 40 seasons without a championship.
*Span as of before last night’s game for all teams. Capitals would have been at 43 seasons if they would have lost the Stanley Cup Finals.
|MLB||Texas Rangers||57 seasons|
|NFL||Atlanta Falcons||52 seasons|
|NFL||Cincinnati Bengals||50 seasons|
|NHL||St. Louis Blues||50 seasons|
|NBA||Phoenix Suns||50 seasons|
|MLB||Milwaukee Brewers||49 seasons|
|MLB||San Deigo Padres||49 seasons|
|MLB||Washington Nationals||49 seasons|
|NBA||Los Angeles Clippers||48 seasons|
|NHL||Buffalo Sabres||47 seasons|
|NHL||Vancouver Canucks||47 seasons|
|NBA||Utah Jazz||44 seasons|
|NHL||Washington Capitals||42 seasons|
|NBA||Denver Nuggets||42 seasons|
|NBA||Indiana Pacers||42 seasons|
|NBA||Brooklyn Nets||42 seasons|
|MLB||Seattle Mariners||41 seasons|
Alexander Ovechkin became only the second player (Sidney Crosby) in the last 20 seasons to score at least 15 goals in the playoffs. He also joined Wayne Gretzky as the oldest player to accomplish this. Overall, he is only the 16th player (21st occurrence) in NHL history to score at least 15 goals in the playoffs.
|Player (Age)||Team||Year||Games Played||Goals||Goals per game|
|Sidney Crosby (21)||Penguins||2008-09||24||15||0.63|
|Alex Ovechkin (32)||Capitals||2017-18||24||15||0.63|
|Wayne Gretzky (32)||Kings||1992-92||24||15||0.63|
Ovechkin also passed John Druce for the most goals scored by a Capitals player in a single playoff run. He is also only the second Russian to ever win the Conn Smythe Trophy, joining Evgeni Malkin. Also, he is the first Russian Captain and only the fifth non-Canadian Captain to lead his team to win the Stanley Cup.
Of course, Ovechkin got plenty of help from his teammates, most notably from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Braden Holtby. With his 20 assists in these playoffs, Kuznetsov became only the 19th player (26th occurrence) to have at least that many in NHL history.
After not starting in the Capitals first two playoff games Holtby came in righted the ship. His biggest moment was when Washington faced elimination in games six and seven of the Lightning series. Holtby recorded shutouts in both games, his only shutouts of the season.
Other Capitals notes
Devante Smith-Pelly scored as many goals in the playoffs (7) as he did in the entire regular season.
Barry Trotz won his first Stanley Cup in his 19th season, the longest any NHL head coach has coached before winning it for the first time.
Jay Beagle became the first NHL player to win an ECHL, AHL and NHL Championship.
Lars Eller became the first player from Denmark to win the Stanley Cup.
Nathan Walker became the first Australian to win the Stanley Cup.
The Golden Knights historic run ends
The Vegas Golden Knights when into their inaugural season projected to be one of the worst teams in the NHL by many pundits. Instead, they put together the best season ever by an expansion team in any of the four major sports (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL).
This continued in the playoffs, where they went 12-3 in route to winning the Western Conference. After winning game one of the Finals, Vegas lost the next four games. It was the only time this season that they had lost four in a row.
|Record||Goals Scored (per game)||Shots on goal per game||Goals allowed (per game)||Opponent shots against per game|
|Vegas first three rounds||12-3||43 (2.86)||31.53||27 (1.8)||33.66|
|Vegas in Cup Finals||1-4||14 (2.8)||31.2||20 (4)||27.2|
What ultimately made the difference for the Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Finals is that Marc-Andre Fleury’s performance nosedived. Add on to that some bad luck and they managed to have to lose four games in a row.
|Record||GAA||Shots Against||Saves||Save %||Shutouts|
|Fleury in first three rounds||12-3||1.68||33.66||31.86||0.947||4|
|Fleury in Cup Finals||1-4||4.09||27.2||23.2||0.853||0|
Sources and Info: (All sources not listed here linked/mentioned in the article)
Tables made using Google Spreadsheet