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It's been a long time coming for Brett Connolly, the Caps' nominee for the Masterton

It's been a long time coming for Brett Connolly, the Caps' nominee for the Masterton

Capitals winger Brett Connolly has been nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, the Washington chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association announced on Friday.

The Masterton Trophy recognizes perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship.

Connolly has scored a career-high 15 goals this season, despite missing 14 games as a healthy scratch earlier in the campaign.

The 24-year-old's breakout season comes nearly seven years after the Lightning selected him sixth overall. It also comes nine months after the Bruins chose not retain his negotiating rights.

The Caps snapped up Connolly after Boston cut him loose, signing him to a one-year, $850,000 contract.

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After a "rough" start to his tenure in Washington, Coach Barry Trotz shuffled his forward combos and Connolly ended up as the left wing on the third line with Lars Eller and Andre Burakovsky.

The trio quickly found some chemistry—and Connolly finally found the groove and comfort level he had always sought.

“It’s been good,” Connolly said after practice on Friday. “It was a little bit of a rough start. But after Christmas, when me Lars and Burky were put together, we kinda went on a little run, the team was playing well and it just kinda bled on for the rest of the year.”

Connolly added: “I’m obviously very happy with the way the year has gone.”

Trotz said he’s been pleasantly surprised by Connolly’s goal production, particularly since he doesn't play a whole lot (10:49 per game).

“He’s given us quality minutes,” Trotz said. “Our scouts identified him as a guy who could contribute offensively. How much, I didn’t know. If you had said Brett Connolly is going to give you 15 goals coming into the season, I’d say, ‘We’ll take it, sure.’”

Connolly will be a restricted free agent at season’s end.

“I would love to be back,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. There’s a lot of things that can happen from now until the end of the playoffs. A lot of guys are up on their contracts [and] we all have one goal and that’s to ultimately win at the end of the year. We’ll worry about where we’re going to be next year when we’re all done. Hopefully with the Cup.”

Each of the PHWA’s 30 chapters submits a Masterton nominee.

MORE CAPITALS: Prediction recap: Caps pull out narrow Metro Division win

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps' win over the Lightning and look ahead to the matchup with the Knights.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 

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