It may have taken Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals a mere 13 seasons to win a Stanley Cup, but there was a time when it seemed like many championships were in Washington’s future.
The Capitals drafted Ovechkin with the No. 1 pick in 2004 and saw him carry them to the playoffs for the first time four years later. It was then when Washington’s postseason struggles began, with the Capitals bowing out of six straight playoffs without even making it to the conference finals.
Head coach Bruce Boudreau was hired after the second of those playoff exits to oversee a young Capitals team still establishing itself as a contender in the NHL. Speaking on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central show Monday, Boudreau compared those early Capitals teams to the present Toronto Maple Leafs for the similarities between how each team’s rosters were constructed around a surging young core.
“I liken the Leafs a lot to my early teams in Washington when we had tremendous hockey players but…the Stanley Cup wasn’t the most important thing,” Boudreau said. “I remember — and I love Alex — but for the first six or seven years of his career, the day we finished in the playoffs, the next day he was off to the World Championships.”
By the time Washington finally did win its first Stanley Cup in 2018, Ovechkin was 32 years old. He trailed only defenseman Brooks Orpik for the honor of being the team’s oldest player.
But while Ovechkin, the Capitals and their fans had to wait more than a decade to finally achieve championship glory, anyone who watched Ovechkin raise that Stanley Cup over his head saw just how much winning it had come to mean to him.
“As time went on, it became apparent how much the Stanley Cup was important to him,” Boudreau said. “You could see it on his face when they finally won it a couple years ago.”