Yeah, I can’t believe that headline either.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) May 24, 2018
Well, believe it. The Capitals are going to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since the 1997-1998 season. They have eliminated the Tampa Bay Lightning after a seven game series.
As a lifelong Caps fan, this is such a surreal feeling. I was only one year old when the Caps went to the Finals for the first time in franchise history so, obviously, I was not cognizant of what was going on. This entire playoffs has felt like a lucid dream in the sense that I do not believe any of it.
After going down 2-0 to the Blue Jackets in the first round, all hope felt lost. Somehow, the hockey gods granted the Capitals life and they came back to win the series in 6. And then, the Penguins. Those god damn Penguins. After two years of punches to the gut from those black and yellow bastards, I was not looking forward to facing them again.
Things felt different though this time around; I can’t quite explain it. After losing Game 1, all hope felt lost and it seemed like business as usual. This is what this team has done to me. But, things turned around immediately with a Game 2 victory to even up the series at one before going to Pittsburgh.
Everything led to a 3-2 series lead and a Game 6 in Pittsburgh. Win and go on to face the Tampa Bay Lightning; lose and go home for a Game 7. And then, Evgeny Kuznetsov happened.
I was at a bar for this game and nobody realized it was a goal until Kuznetsov started celebrating and the place went wild. I immediately called my dad to share the good news. I had gotten him into hockey a few years ago and even he got used to the yearly disappointment. No longer.
After that, I just felt like the Caps were playing with house money as they prepared to face off against the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference: the Lightning. And just because those damn hockey gods are so devious, this series went to seven but the Caps showed out when it mattered and are going to the Finals on the back of two Andre Burakovsky goals in the final game.
If anybody deserves this, it is Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. As teammates together since 2007, no duo is more deserving than a championship in all of hockey than this one in my opinion. I have watched these two for almost their entire careers and seeing them reach this plateau is incredible.
For now, it is time for them to focus on the biggest cinderella story in sports in recent history: the Vegas Golden Knights. It will be an amazing series and I am sure you all know how I hope it goes. But for now, I will enjoy this Conference Finals win, even if they did touch the trophy.
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