Eighteen years ago today, the Washington Capitals’ longest playoff run in franchise history ended in a whimper. Riding two power play goals from Doug Brown, the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Capitals 4-1 at MCI Center to win their second straight Stanley Cup.
No NHL team has repeated as champions since that year. The Capitals have have not advanced past the second round since, despite winning two Presidents Trophies.
The Red Wings went 3-for-4 with the man-advantage to complete their second straight sweep in the Cup Final and the 11th championship in franchise history.
Detroit’s Scotty Bowman tied Toe Blake’s coaching record by winning the Stanley Cup for the eighth time.
Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, handed the trophy to defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov, who was on the ice in a wheelchair after he sustained head injuries in a limousine accident a year earlier.
The Capitals got scoring from all across the lineup. Four different players scored 7 goals in the playoffs including Joe Juneau, Peter Bondra, Sergei Gonchar, and Richard Zednik. Olie Kolzig was lights out during the postseason, posting a .941 save percentage and a 1.95 goals against.
ESPN did this feature on Godzilla:
Despite getting swept, the Capitals’ magical run inspired Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser to utter these words the next day.
One last time for auld lang syne:
Now let’s bury the phrase forever.
Lock it in a box, seal the box in a vault, drop the vault in the river, let it sleep with the fishes.
You can fault the Washington Capitals for not bringing their A-game to the Stanley Cup finals if you want. You can fault them for being swept, for hardly putting any pressure on the elegant Detroit Red Wings, for falling behind quickly in every game. But I can’t find it in my heart to blast them. After so many years of untimely playoff exits, there was a hockey game in town last night. And the date was June 16. The fact that the Caps were still playing a hockey game is more important than that they weren’t winning it.
Kornheiser later un-retired the phrase and has used it pretty much every year since.
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