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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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Caps leave All-Star Game with plenty of highlights, but no wins

Caps leave All-Star Game with plenty of highlights, but no wins

ST. LOUIS -- There was no All-Star championship for the Metropolitan Division All-Stars this year. The Metro was not able to defend its crown in 2020 as it fell 9-5 to the Atlantic Division in the first game of the All-Star Game tournament on Saturday.

Despite the early loss, the Capitals certainly left their mark on the event. Here were the highlights:

An ovation for Oshie

T.J. Oshie began his NHL career in St. Louis and remains a fan favorite there even now in the midst of his fifth season in Washington. That was evident when Oshie was introduced to the crowd to thunderous applause.

“I think it's a pretty cool story,” Oshie said. “It's something that I'm going to enjoy telling the kids and grandkids down the road. But I think the coolest part for me was just the cheers from the fans when my name was called a couple times there. I enjoyed playing here. I love playing in D.C. though, but I had some good experiences here, some heartbreaks, some pretty good teams we played on. Just to get back here, just kind of crazy that my first All-Star Game ended up being in St. Louis. It was a great weekend, it was fun, the fans were awesome as always.”

The starting lineup

Todd Reirden went with what he knew to start the game as Oshie and John Carlson both started the game with Braden Holtby in net. The only non-Cap to start was New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal.

The Barzal, Oshie, Carlson trio seemed to find some chemistry through the game and Oshie had nothing but positive things to say of the speedy forward after the game.

“Obviously his skill level's off the charts, just skating, his stickhandling and vision on the ice,” Oshie said. “Obviously we would've liked to put up some more goals, but it's nice trying to get open and have him find me than chase him around the ice and just try to not get made a fool of. It was awesome. He's a great kid. It was nice kind of getting to know him off the ice here these last couple days.”

While Oshie wished for more production, that line actually acquitted itself nicely. Oshie recorded one goal and one assist, Carlson had one goal and Barzal had two assists.

Carlson scores a milestone

The Atlantic Division jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but Carlson scored the first goal of the game for the Metro.

Holtby broke up a scoring chance for the Atlantic as he blocked a centering pass with his stick which sparked the breakout in the other direction. Carlson and Barzal had a 2-on-1 opportunity and Barzal set up Carlson for the shot past a helpless Frederik Anderson. Oshie recorded a secondary assist on the goal.

That was not just the Caps’ first goal of the game, it was the first goal by a Caps defenseman at the All-Star Game in franchise history, according to the team. Quite the milestone.

“That’s great,” Carlson said. “I guess I had no idea.”

Oshie scores in St. Louis

I mean, he had to, right? His first All-Star game coming in St. Louis, there was no way Oshie was going to walk away from this game without scoring.

The Metro Division cycled in the offensive zone and Seth Jones dropped the puck off to Oshie near the blue line. He cut up the middle then fired a shot to the corner to beat Anderson, making him the eighth player in Caps’ franchise history to score at an All-Star Game.

Coach Osh in the house

Oshie’s family has always been the talk of Washington because of how adorable his daughters are and that was on full display again on Saturday. But it was Oshie’s dad who stole the show.

Oshie’s father suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. That makes traveling very difficult. After Oshie’s goal, however, the broadcast cut to Oshie waving up to his father who had been able to make the trip to St. Louis.

“It's always great to have Coach Osh around,” Oshie said. “He missed our fathers' trip this year, it's kind of hard for him to travel, but we were able to make it work for him to come to St. Louis where a lot of the people you see working down here behind the scenes probably know him better than they know me, so he got to see some old friends. Just special to have him here to witness my first All-Star Game in person.”

Oshie added, “There's certain milestones that I've made in my career that I want him to be a part of if he's able to make it and this was one of them He came to St. Louis quite a bit when I played and he has a lot of friends here, a lot of people that treat him really good as well. This was something that I didn't want him to miss."

Holtby ends on a high-note

Let’s face it, the All-Star Game does not favor the goalies. A 3-on-3 tournament is meant to promote as much scoring as possible. As a result, it is often a tough night for the netminders and that was true for Holtby who made five saves on nine shots in his single period of play. But Holtby was able to end his night on a high note with one of the top saves of the game.

David Pastrnak set up Shea Weber on the far-side for what looked like a lay-up on Holtby, but Holtby was able to stretch the pad for the fantastic toe save to deny Weber.

“It felt good to make a save,” Holtby said.

“It's difficult, but it's fun too,” Holtby said of the 3-on-3 format. “It's challenging. I think guys are starting to figure it out a little bit more with the cross-ice pass and stuff. But it's fun to be a part of.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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Oshie gets warm All-Star welcome on St. Louis return, scores with dad in attendance

Oshie gets warm All-Star welcome on St. Louis return, scores with dad in attendance

Former St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie was welcomed back to Enterprise Arena fondly by the NHL All-Star crowd that included his family.

At the end of Oshie's entrance on to the ice, the camera showed plenty of Blues players cheering for him. In seven seasons with St. Louis, Oshie played 443 games and tallied 310 points (110 G, 200 A) and a +71 plus/minus rating. He even served as an alternate captain for his final two seasons before being traded to the Capitals for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley and a 2016 third-round draft pick. 

That wasn't all for Oshie's All-Star performance -- he scored 5:29 into the first period to give the Metropolitan Division team a 3-2 lead.

Oshie is the eighth Capitals player in franchise history to score in the NHL All-Star Game.

Oshie's family, including his dad, Tim, affectionately known as "Coach Osh," was in attendance to witness his first All-Star appearance, making the moment even more special.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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