Did anyone see this coming? Did anyone watch the Caps around mid-February, when they were allowing their opponents more high-danger chances than any team in the last decade aside from the freaking Coyotes, and say, “welp, there’s a Stanley Cup contender right there. And not only that, but they’re going to make the Final based not on unreliable puck luck but rather a genuine turnaround in all fundamental statistics”?
No one did, and no one should have. To believe the Caps would improve would have been a shameless guess or an act of faith. But with a couple simple substitutions (Kempny for Bowey especially) without any detectable change in strategy besides hit everything that moves, the Caps are about to compete for the Cup, and they freaking deserve it. They outplayed and defeated Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Tampa – three excellent teams with multi-layered threats – to get here, and now all that stands between Alex Ovechkin and the Stanley Cup is George McPhee, Nate Schmidt, and Marc-Andre Fleury.
This is a surprise, maybe the single most enjoyable surprise of my life as a fan of this team. So here now is a surprise playoff snapshot, wherein we see what’s transformed the Washington Capitals into a finalist and what might yet go wrong against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Headline photo: Chris Gordon
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