NHL Metro Division Notebook: Washington Finally Wins the Stanley Cup

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The hockey season has come to an end. The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights put on an entertaining Stanley Cup Final. In the end, it was the Washington Capitals who hoisted the Stanley Cup high above their heads. Time to go into the NHL Metro Division Notebook to see how Washington won the Stanley Cup.

NHL Metro Division Notebook: Washington Finally Wins the Stanley Cup

Washington Capitals vs Vegas Golden Knights

For the first time in the franchise history the Washington Capitals are Stanley Cup Champions. Washington defeated Vegas in five entertaining games to clinch the Stanley Cup. Each game was highly entertaining and the last four games could have gone either way. In the end the better team won the series. Not to say Vegas was not a worthy champion, but as the saying goes a team needs to learn how to lose before they can win. Washington has gone through plenty of playoff heart breaks in order to get to the position of winning the Stanley Cup. While it may have taken some time, the Capitals finally reached the promised land and their captain could not be happier.

Led by Alex Ovechkin’s will to win and overcome any situation, the Capitals proved nothing would stop them from winning this season. Ovechkin’s out pouring of emotion was evident once the game and series was over. He was crying on Matt Niskanen’s shoulder as the player’s were celebrating at the end where Braden Holtby defended during the game. Ovechkin had to let the moment sink in as he was the last player off the bench once the game was over. It has taken 13 long seasons for Ovechkin to be in this position. Prior to Thursday night, Ovechkin had won every major award in the NHL besides the Stanley Cup. Not only can he add the Stanley Cup to his trophy case, but the Conn Smythe Trophy, as playoff MVP.

Ovechkin carried the weight of winning the Stanley Cup on his shoulders and his teammates took notice. In every series the Capitals had to overcome adversity. Down 0-2 to Columbus in the first round. Vanquishing their demons in the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. Losing three straight games to Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Final and win two straight to win the series. Then losing game one to Vegas, where people thought Vegas had the better team to come back and win four straight games. All season long Washington faced adversity which made them a better team come the playoffs. Prior to the season, nobody expected Washington to win the Stanley Cup. Battling through the ups and downs of season made this group tough to play against.

One of the biggest moves head coach Barry Trotz made was to bring in Braden Holtby in Game Two of the Columbus series. Philipp Grubauer was the starting goalie in the playoffs as Holtby struggled with his play. Once Holtby entered the series, the Capitals played a much better game in front of him. Holtby just needed to be pushed and his was. In fact, Holtby made series defying saves from the get go. As time was winding down in Game two of the Stanley Cup Final, Holtby saved the series for Washington as he robbed Alex Tuck of a game tying goal. From that point on, Washington outplayed the Vegas Golden Knights. Barry Trotz enters the summer as a free agent, but it will not take long for Washington resign him. However, it will come with a cost.

Just like it will cost Washington or any team a ton of money for All Star defenseman John Carlson. Carlson has been a vital part of the Washington Capitals defense corps. It will be tough for Washington to bring him back as he is expected to test the open market. But if this group of Capitals can stay together, maybe Carlson will want to be a part of what the future is to come.

Not only did the stars shine for Washington, but their roles players came to play in the playoffs. The likes of Devante Smith-Pelly, Lars Eller, Tom Wilson, and Brett Connolly scored timely goals just to name a few. Washington truly played a team game. While teams focused on the top two lines, these players were the ones causing damage on the ice. For Lars Eller and Devante Smith-Pelly they finally found roles they accepted. While Eller was the third line center for most of the season, he was put into positions in the playoffs when there injuries to Washington’s top players. Eller scored big goals in the playoffs none bigger than the Stanley Cup clinching goal in game five.

On the other hand Smith-Pelly has been a cast off. Could not find a role with New Jersey, so they bought him out. With Washington, Barry Trotz put him into a position to succeed. Succeed he did. During the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Smith0-Pelly recorded seven goals in 24 games during the playoffs. He came alive during the Stanley Cup Finals recording a goal in the last three games of the series. Every time Smith-Pelly was on the ice, he brought energy. He is one of the feel good stories on the Capitals besides Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom.

For the Vegas Golden Knights they will think what might have been. Despite their disappointment of not winning the Stanley Cup, the Golden Knights accomplished a lot for being an expansion franchise. In fact, the Golden Knights dropped the expansion label around American Thanksgiving. Vegas joined the 1967-68 St. Louis Blues as the only teams to reach the Stanley Cup in their first season of existence. Throughout the entire season, Vegas was a tough team to play against. The team was made up of cast offs from other teams. They came together and jelled as one. Credit has to go to Gerard Gallant for bringing them together. It will definitely be tough to repeat their success of this season, next season, but this team has been proving people wrong since day one. If any team could do it, Vegas can.

Vegas is truly a hockey town. The fans embraced the players since day one. The moniker of the “Golden Misfits” was embraced by everyone in Vegas. The players embraced the city as well. Prior to the season starting, the city of Las Vegas had to deal with a terrible tragedy. The players played for the city all season long until their magic ran out. Going forward Vegas will have some decisions to make when it comes to free agents and drafts picks. For now, the Golden Knights can reflect on everything accomplished and hold their heads high. Vegas is truly a destination for any hockey fan.

The NHL Entry Draft is scheduled for June 22-23, 2018 in Dallas followed the start of NHL Free Agency on July 1.

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Thank you following along with Murphy’s Hockey Law all season long. Congrats to the Washington Capitals on winning the Stanley Cup.

Photo Credit: By Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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