The NHL playoffs are reaching its peak, and the Washington Capitals are a big part of that. The perennial Stanley Cup contenders appear to finally be putting it all together this season, as they have jumped out to a strong lead in the Eastern Conference Final. It’s not that Tampa Bay has been playing badly. Rather, it’s that the Caps have been playing like a team of destiny. No one really believed in them until the final second ticked off the clock in the second round versus the Penguins, and it was official that Washington had mercifully gotten over the Crosby hump.
2018 Washington Capitals
Indeed, when Alex Ovechkin is at ease after a playoff game with the media this deep into the postseason, you know something magical is in the air.
The Capitals look like they’re playing loose and having fun the likes of which we’ve never seen in the Ovy era. Winning the first two games on the road to start the series? Are you kidding me?
So how did this happen, exactly? I think the benching of Braden Holtby in favor of Philip Grubauer for Game 1 in the first round was major wake-up call for the goaltender. He was sensational last year, but not so much this season. That move probably pissed him off and re-focused him like nothing else would have. He has responded with inspired play and it’s made all the difference. His teammates play infinitely more confident when he’s on his game.
So D.C. may actually get a legit shot at its first ever cup. Nothing would please the NHL more than Alex Ovechkin finally having a championship ring to show off in the league’s marketing campaigns. The man with the likable smile and legendary shot deserves it. And for all of the buzz about both the Jets and the Golden Knights, the Capitals just may be the unstoppable force that was always meant to win in 2018.
Matthew Ross is a sports commentator and a radio host on TSN 690 Radio in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He’s also a contributor to ESPN 101.3 Plattsburgh/Burlington. Follow him @MatthewWords.