After 14 long seasons, Alex Ovechkin finally raised the Stanley Cup over his head and let out a primal roar last night. He took his Washington Capitals through the entirety of the playoffs for the first time in his 10 playoff appearances. And what a feeling that was. To prove the doubters throughout his career wrong on the biggest stage in hockey. That scream to me felt like Ovi getting all of his frustration about the last 10 years of failing to win out in one yell. Every time Ovechkin has gone to the playoffs, he’s been the butt end of criticism for the losses, as he is the captain and highest paid player on the Capitals. But he finally delivered on his promise and oh, how sweet it was.
This was the first championship in the team’s history as well. And the journey was far from easy. They were cast out as an underdog if anything and weren’t expected to ever make a deep playoff run.
And that skepticism followed the team into the first round as they found themselves down 2-0 to the Columbus Blue Jackets. However, they rallied for games 3-6 and ended up beating Columbus 4-2. Everyone knew the next round was going to be the toughest. Not only were the Pittsburgh Penguins one of the top NHL teams this year, but history was on Pittsburgh’s side too. In 24 straight seasons, the Capitals haven’t won a single playoff series against the Penguins. That changed this year as the Capitals beat the Penguins with an overtime goal in game 6 to send Washington to its first conference finals in 20 years. The tightest series of the playoffs was definitely Washington-Tampa Bay, which got extended to 7 games. But the Capitals were just hungrier for victory than the Lightning, leading to a 4-0 win in game 7. And finally, the Capitals took down the Vegas Golden Knights in 5 games, cementing the championship.
It was only deserving that Ovi won MVP for all his effort, with 12 goals and 22 points going into the Stanley Cup finals. Overall, he played 24 games this postseason, and 121 playoff games overall, showing his longevity and consistency at making it to the playoffs. But his inconsistency in getting through the rounds has led to him taking the load of criticism, including 3 straight second round exits. However, according to coach Barry Trotz, “Ovi’s been on a mission. There were a lot of people doubting if he still had what it took. The great players take exception to that…I think he took it personally. He said, ‘I’m going to show you I’m still a great player.’ And he did.”
Ovechkin, with a hoarse and sore voice, told reports “I just wanted to do whatever I can to help win the cup. And we did it.” Ovi’s journey hasn’t been easy. He’s persevered through all those losses, all those times he was so close and came up just short, and that all goes towards telling a story like none other. A story where the player learns from their shortcomings, a story where the player triumphs over adversity, a story where the player figures it all out in the end and accomplishes their final goal.
It was the final notch to separate Ovechkin from all the other greats who are championship-less. He cemented his place among the hockey greats long ago, but this is the icing on the cake. I think every hockey fan (yes, even Golden Knight fans) have to feel some sort of sympathy for the man who has been through so much to finally add a title to his resume.
The celebration will begin with a parade scheduled to commence on June 12th, starting at 11 A.M.