(WINDSOR, ON) – In one of the most storied series in NHL finals history, the Washington Capitals’ dynamic duo of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom weathered the storms of opportunities lost to finally claim the Stanley Cup.
Having fallen short so many times in elimination games in the past, “Ovi” and company finally put the Vegas Golden Knights away 4-3 last night to claim the most coveted professional team sports trophy on the globe.
Although it was a total team effort, Ovechkin was also rightly awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. The coveted piece of hardware was presented to him by league commissioner Gary Bettman just before he was presented with Lord Stanley’s namesake to raise above his head as captain of the Caps, at long last.
This, arguably, would not have been possible without Backstrom, the Swedish man-of-steal who has assisted on 203 of Ovechkin’s 607 regular season goals, many of which were tape to tape in the wheel house, and 22 of Ovi’s 66 playoff markers.
It explains why they skated together with the cup before handing it off to Brooks Orpik.
Although Braden Holtby and Evgeny Kuznetsov were the 7th and 10th Caps players, respectively, to take possession of the cup for their victory laps, it would have been warranted that they received it 3rd and 4th for their equally impressive contributions to Washington’s championship run.
TJ Oshie and Devante Smith-Pelly, two of the team’s role players prior to the Vegas series, should have lined up to receive it 5th or 6th, given their meaningful exploits to help clinch this series, also. It is notable that Smith-Pelly matched his 7 regular season goals with 7 crucial tallies in the playoffs.
Yet, none of the individual feats mattered to this team, with a capital T. In fact, it was mainly because of this same selflessness that the Caps were able to constrain their diverse personalities in the locker room and playing styles on the ice in favour of the greater good of the team.
The unparalleled collective out-pouring of emotions by the entire team, when the bench cleared for the on-ice celebrations, was indicative of just how cohesive this team became in the course of their championship run.
After leading his entire team around the arena for the victory lap, Ovechkin finally handed the cup to head coach Barry Trotz, the mastermind bench boss who orchestrated this magical moment.
Conversely Vegas coach Gerard Gallant and his team were understandably upset with their loss home ice after showing so much promise. While most Knights players simply buried their faces in their gloves, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury angrily stormed off the ice in bitter disappointment.
Perhaps Ovechkin’s taunting of Fleury at the start of the game was too much, in reflection, as the former Pittsburgh Penguins’ reaction was equally antagonistic.
That said, Ovechkin’s relentless offensive and defensive leadership by example once the puck dropped was the only individual contribution from either team which stood head and shoulders above all others. After 13 seasons with the franchise, he can now lay claim to be the first Russian import to captain his team to the Stanley Cup championship.
Ovechkin joins only Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzgy, and Bobby Orr to win three Conn Smythe Trophies and Hart Memorial Trophies. He’s also the only player, besides Mike Bossy, to win the scoring title in both the regular season and through the playoffs.
With accolades such as this, and in addition to winning the Rocket Richard Trophy on numerous occasions, Ovechkin is now deemed to be one of the greatest NHL scorers ever. After shouldering the blame for many of his team’s past failures, it is only fitting that he is now recognized as the primary reason for the Caps being crowned world champions; the first time since their inaugural 1974 season.