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A legacy defined as Alex Ovechkin, Capitals claim first Stanley Cup title

A legacy defined as Alex Ovechkin, Capitals claim first Stanley Cup title

LAS VEGAS — Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are Stanley Cup champions.

At long last.

I’ve got to be honest, there have been (many) times over the past few years when I wondered if I’d ever have the privilege of typing those words.

And yet here we are.

Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are Stanley Cup champions.

Here’s what it means to the long-suffering fans of Washington D.C., the 44-year-old franchise and the legacy of its superstar captain:  

To the area, it means we’re no longer the swamp of pro sports cities.

As a lifelong Washington resident, I feel eminently qualified to weigh in on the subject.

This is the first championship in the Big Four sports since the Redskins claimed the Lombardi Trophy in 1992.

With the exception of the Caps’ previous run, way back in 1998, we hadn’t even come close to planning a parade in the years since. Instead, we’ve suffered through multiple postseason indignities, authored by division champions that appeared poised to win it all…only to fall flat on their face. The Caps did it. The Nationals and Redskins followed suit. Then the Caps did it again, and then again. Indeed, in recent years, being a D.C. sports fan required a measure of delusion—and perhaps some therapy. No more.

For the franchise, it ends four decades of futility.

By the mid-1980s—the teams of my youth—the Caps had become perennial postseason invitees. But were any of those squads actually good enough to make a legitimate run at a championship? That’s debatable.

Then, on June 26, 2004, everything changed. The Caps drafted Alexander Ovechkin and, within a couple of seasons, the Young-Guns-Rock-The-Red era was in full swing. As the beat writer for The Washington Post from 2004-2011, I enjoyed a front row seat and, occasionally, a peek behind the curtain of the thrilling highs and soul-snatching lows.

As it turned out, winning hockey’s Holy Grail, is much more difficult than anyone imagined. In 2010, 2016 and 2017, the Caps iced the best team in the regular season and entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed. Three times the curse of the Presidents’ Trophy had other ideas. Interestingly, this WASN’T supposed to be the year. The two-year window was supposedly closed.

This was supposed to be a transition year.

Instead, it became THE year thanks to an unlikely confluence of occurrences.

Led by Ovechkin, the stars played like stars. Young players emerged. Unheralded career grinders stepped up. A free agent head coach pushed all the right buttons. And, perhaps most important, the group became a team in every sense of the word—a critical step in the process that for some reason had eluded previous versions.  

To Ovechkin, this means everything.

Just look at the many GIFs of his emotional outbursts during these playoffs.

Not to minimize what the Cup to the other two dozen players and coaches, but it’s different for Ovi, the first Russian-born player to captain a Cup champion. He’s been the face of the league for 13 years and the face of the franchise for just as a long. And, right or wrong, his name had become synonymous with regular season accolades and postseason failure. Well, no more. Three MVPs. Seven goal scoring titles. A points title. And now, No. 8’s impressive resume also includes the crowning achievement for a sure first ballot Hall of Famer: a Cup.

It’s okay if you’d started to doubt. But you’re still here. And, now, so is the Cup.

Repeat after me. Say it loud. Say it proud.

Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are Stanley Cup champions.  

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