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And so this is goodbye, Lord Stanley…for now

ovechkin-grabs-stanley-cup.jpg
USA TODAY SPORTS

And so this is goodbye, Lord Stanley…for now

On June 7, 2018, Alex Ovechkin triumphantly hoisted the Stanley Cup over his head as the Capitals claimed their first championship in franchise history. Whether you have been a fan of the team since the beginning or were brought into the fold during the Ovechkin era, that moment in 2018 was a special one. Year after year of early playoff exits made some doubt if the moment would ever come. But finally the patience, the perseverance, the unwavering support was rewarded as the team finally claimed the sports’ ultimate prize. It was a moment for Caps fans to celebrate and really the entire city of Washington as it was the first championship the city had seen since 1992.

The ecstasy of the moment was followed by an epic party, a party that included swimming in fountains, a world tour, impromptu tattoos, championship rings and a banner ceremony.

But the party was not meant to last forever.

Sports offer every team a chance of redemption each year. With only one champion, that means every other team has something to strive for. For the first time, however, Caps fans saw the other side of winning a championship. The new season offers 30 teams a chance to improve upon last season. But for the defending champs, the best they can do is defend the Cup. Anything else feels like a disappointment.

With the flick of his stick, Carolina Hurricanes forward Brock McGinn officially ended the Capitals’ reign as Stanley Cup champions on Wednesday. It confirmed the truth that everyone knew in their hearts but did not want to accept: You cannot remain champions forever.

There is an important takeaway from Wednesday’s gut punch that Caps fans should remember and hold with them: It still matters.

How many times had Caps fans left a season thinking to themselves, just gives us one, that’s all we want! After years of hoping, wishing and praying for a championship, it was hard to know how to feel as the new season began. Would it still matter? Would we still live and die with every shot, every save and every goal? Would the game still mean as much as it did before now that the Caps had claimed the Cup or would nothing else ever be as sweet as that first championship?

We got our answer on Wednesday.

As Game 7 drew near, all of those familiar feelings returned, the nervousness, the excitement, the hope, the despair. If Game 7 of the first round could still mean so much, if losing in the playoffs still could make us feel this way, it means the game still matters. If we can all feel as sad as we felt Wednesday, it means the next championship will taste just as sweet.

If that’s how you feel as fans, you can bet the players, the coaches, everyone within the organization feels the same way.

There is also one other thing Caps fans should remember. The team’s reign as champions may be over, but it is not forgotten and not erased. There will always be the memories. We will always remember the moment of hope we had when Lars Eller scored in overtime against Columbus. We will tell our kids about the elation of Evgeny Kuznetsov’s overtime goal that ended an era of futility. Eller’s Cup clinching goal will live on in league history and the team’s names will be forever etched in the Cup’s rings.

McGinn’s goal ended the Caps’ season, but the Stanley Cup banner still remains in the rafters and nothing will ever take that away.

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I Am The Prospect: Local product Joe Snively proving himself to hometown and Capitals

I Am The Prospect: Local product Joe Snively proving himself to hometown and Capitals

Joe Snively is the second Washington Capitals' prospect featured in NBC Sports Washington's I Am The Prospect series. Click here to check out more profiles from I Am The Prospect.

Nothing motivates quite like the chance to be a hometown hero. That potential role for Joe Snively of Herndon, Virginia, runs deep as he celebrated the Capitals first franchise Stanley Cup Championship as a fan with the rest of D.C. around Capital One Arena mere months before signing his first professional contract with them as an undrafted free agent. 

The Yale bulldog scored in each of his four seasons in New Haven, and before that he was learning youth hockey in the Capitals' community programs held where the Capitals practice, at MedStar Iceplex in Arlington, Virginia.

Snively, born in 1996, has watched the Alex Ovechkin impact spread a passion for the Capitals and hockey itself across the DMV. Ovechkin was selected first overall by the Washington Capitals in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. 

Todd Reirden noted that with area prospects, "you don't want to force them, just because it's a nice local story," but it's about evaluating what the team needs. In Snively's case, he adds "forward depth" that Washington is looking for.

"He's here not because he's from there area," assistant GM Ross Mahoney said. "He's here because he got a good chance of playing for the Capitals in the future."

Mahoney oversees the Capitals' NHL Entry Draft, developmental programs, keeping tabs and evaluating league prospects and Washington's amateur scouting staff.

Snively, at 5'9" and 180 pounds, said his size "has always been a knock" on him as a player and is a reason why he wasn't drafted.

Because of the similar story, many compare Snively to Jeff Halpern, a former Capital and current assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Halpern hails from Potomac, Maryland, played for the Capitals twice over 14 seasons, and was the first member of the Capitals to ever come from the D.C. area.

As for his hopes for potential impact on young hockey players around the DMV, "I don't know if inspire is the right word," Snively said, but he definitely wants to show them that anything is possible.

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How to watch: Capitals vs. Blues preseason Game 2

How to watch: Capitals vs. Blues preseason Game 2

Starting the preseason on a three-game homestand, the Capitals are 1-0 entering their matchup with the Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues. This game will be one of five more chances for roster battles to be settled as the Capitals look to shore up their team and send assignments to Hersey and beyond.

In the home opener against the Chicago Blackhawks, Caps heartthrob Tom Wilson notched an overtime game-winning goal to seal Washington's first victory of the year. Aliaksei Protas shined for all to enjoy as well, tallying three points (goal and two assists, including one on Wilson's overtime effort).

After this game, the Capitals face the Blues once more in the preseason on September 27th in St. Louis and of course for the regular-season opener on October 2, also in St. Louis.

CAPITALS-BLUES PRESEASON GAME 2: HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. St. Louis Blues

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: Wednesday, September 18, 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Capitals-Blues preseason game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Blues preseason game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7

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