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Parker: Washington Capitals are taking the Stanley Cup

| Tuesday, April 16, 2019

It’s another year for the Washington Capitals.

After their victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in last year’s historic Stanley Cup, many loyal fans found themselves underwhelmed by this regular season. Sure, they clinched the top spot in the Metropolitan League, but with the same amount of wins and one fewer loss than the New York Islanders. To be clear, this is not the Metropolitan League of my youth, in which battles against the Penguins and Rangers reached Game-of-Thrones proportions. No, the Caps topped out the Metropolitan League with 14 fewer wins than their Atlantic Division counterpart victors, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It’s enough to make a Caps fan weep for the 2016-17 season of nine-game win streaks, bullying their way through the Metropolitan League. It was the season of Holtby’s Vezina Trophy. It was the second, final year of the dream team that Barry Trotz assembled to snag Washington’s first Stanley Cup. This season was, in comparison to the past couple years, outstandingly ordinary. But do not sleep on the Capitals.

What went wrong both years of that dream team, bolstered by the new acquisition of Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie? The Pittsburgh Penguins. For some reason, the Pens have owned beachfront real-estate in the Capitals’ heads. Part of it could be the epic rivalry of Ovechkin and Crosby. Maybe the second round of the playoffs carries some curse for the Caps. Either way, the image of black and yellow uniforms victorious over the Caps remains burned into every fan’s mind. But those days are over. Last year marked the turning point for Ovechkin when he finally defeated his rival (second-round, no less). The moment the Caps beat the Penguins, I knew they were destined to take the Stanley Cup. This year, with the Penguins trailing the Islanders three games to none, it looks to me like the tables have turned.

What about the aforementioned Lightning, with their incomparable record? The Caps are not scared. Look at last year: the Golden Knights shocked the world on February 1, 2018, when they broke the record for most wins in the first season of an expansion team. They were the first team to win the division in their inaugural season since the 1927 Rangers and the first team ever to sweep the first round of playoffs in their inaugural season. To whom did they fall but the lowly Washington Capitals. We had just lost Justin Williams to the Carolina Hurricanes, and the world believed they had blown their shot at the Stanley Cup. Guess not.

The Capitals had a Stanley Cup waiting for them for years: many consider Ovechkin one of the best players in the NHL today, and Holtby earned his paycheck as the highest-paid goalie in the league when he won the Vezina. Not only are they a great team, they’re a momentum team. With a strong showing so far in this year’s playoffs, I think it can be expected to see the Stanley Cup sailing above a sea of white and red once more.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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