Throughout this improbable postseason run for the Washington Capitals, the team has said they remain focused on the next game.
That’s been said been said of Capitals teams in playoffs past. This time it might actually be true.
The Capitals were down 2-0 in their first-round series against the wild card Columbus Blue Jackets. Washington won the next four games.
The Capitals dropped the first game of their second-round series against the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. They won the series in six games
In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps were down 3-2 in the series. It looked like the magical run might be over. A few days later, I was rushing to book flights to Las Vegas.
In the Stanley Cup Final, Vegas took the first game. Now the Capitals are heading back to the desert up 3-1 in the championship series.
A win gives Washington the first Stanley Cup in team history.
The team, then, must be nervous.
“I just want to get rest and get home,” Evgeny Kuznetsov told reporters after the game. “You know me, I never think 72 hours in front of me.”
The Capitals were never expected to be playing for a Stanley Cup now.
I have covered this team for eight seasons — I’ve seen all the playoff loses in person. This is a different Capitals team. They are playing for a city that has been tied in knots by this fickle sport, and for each other. They’re not playing to prevent the media from writing nasty things about them after the season.
“We realize and we appreciate the guys that were here before us, and the groundwork that they’ve laid for us,” TJ Oshie said Monday night. “We’re trying to write our own story here. It seems like the rest of the city is on board with that.”
The 2017-18 Capitals don’t plan on ruining anyone’s dreams.
“There’s been heartbreak here,” Oshie said. “We know that, but I like that’s kind of scarred over and made us stronger for it.
With his team celebrating the Game Four win clad in shirts reading ‘Create History,’ Capitals coach had Barry Trotz one message for his team before Game Five.
“Just relax,” Trotz said. “We haven’t played our best game, which is exciting to me.”
If the Capitals do play their best game, the Stanley Cup will be in the building on Thursday night.
Headline photo: Bruce Bennett
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