Recent years have provided highlights aplenty for Caps fans to reflect back on, as we’ve watched the team develop into one of the League’s perennial best. Each year, however, has also been punctuated with a tinge of regret - with the knowledge that something big was missing.
Not this year, though. 2018 was, without a doubt, the best 12-month stretch for any Capitals team in franchise history. It was glorious and insane, filled with great moments and greater memories that will last a lifetime for players and fans alike.
That’s not to say that all of the great moments from the past year were related to that incredible night in early June, of course, or even the two months that preceded it. There were good times to be had before and long after the Cup run - and we’re going to cover as many of them as possible. But you’ll forgive us if this year in review has a slight, shall we say, silver tinge to it.
And away we go!
January 27, 2018 - Ovechkin Blasts Away the Competition
Alex Ovechkin has been a consistent presence at the NHL All-Star game since emerging as a superstar in the League, and almost always makes a splash when he goes. His ninth appearance back in January was no exception, as he became the first forward to win the Hardest Shot competition since Sergei Fedorov did so back in 2002 - and that was just his warm-up. After hitting 98.8 mph, all that was left was to see if he could hit triple digits:
March 3, 2018 - Caps and Leafs Head Outdoors
At this point the NHL has done so many outdoor games, memorable moments would seemingly be hard to come by. But when the Caps and Leafs hit the ice at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis in early March, a surprisingly entertaining evening awaited. From the awesome setting to Ovechkin’s 40th goal of the season to the impressive Caps win, it was a great evening all around.
But perhaps one of the best moments was one that couldn’t be planned and could have been a disaster - when the lights went out:
Seriously, who needs lights when you’ve got some rockin’ tunes to dance to?
Ovechkin Takes the Crown Again
For a guy who was supposed to be washed up several times over, Ovechkin certainly found new life in 2017-18 - and capped it off with his seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the League’s top goal-scorer. Finishing just shy of another 50 goal season, Ovechkin’s 49 goals made him only the second player in NHL history to win the title seven times and the oldest player to do so since 33-year-old Phil Esposito won the Richard back in 1974-75.
April 17, 2018 - Double OT in Columbus
When the Caps headed to Columbus for Game 3 of their opening-round series, they found themselves down 2-0 and perched on the precipice of yet another early postseason disappointment. And for the third-straight game, regulation time was not enough to decide a winner. There would not be a third-straight loss, however, because Lars Eller wouldn’t let it happen. The Caps crashed the net, the puck ricocheted off of Eller, and just like that the Caps had life again. They’d never look back.
May 7, 2018 - Exorcising Some Black and Gold Demons
We’ve seen this movie so many times before. Capitals. Penguins. Playoffs. Overtime. It doesn’t seem to matter how good that Caps’ team is or who’s leading the series - it just always has a bad ending.
Not this year. Not when this Caps team went to Pittsburgh up 3-2 in the series, determined to not let history repeat itself. After a 1-1 stalemate in regulation - and a terrifying shot to the pipe by Pittsburgh’s Tom Kuhnhackl - all that remained was Alex Ovechkin finding a streaking Evgeny Kuznetsov, who ended decades of pain with a single shot. And just like that, the Caps were on to the second round.
May 21 & 23, 2018 - Blanking Their Way to the Final
We’ll consider Game 6 and Game 7 to be just one long continuous string of wonderful, because it was basically a two-part lesson in how to deflate a great opponent. Part One was an incredible display of physical dominance combined with timely scoring and the first of two shutouts by an in-the-zone Braden Holtby, a win which saved a season that had already exceeded our wildest dreams. Part Two was all about puck luck and the game-changing abilities of Andre Burakovsky... and by the end of the night it was the Caps hoisting the Eastern Conference trophy for the first time in twenty years.
Oh, and it spawned what was perhaps the greatest post-game interview moment (at least up to that point) as an emotional Alex Ovechkin got a boost from the always-supportive Holtby:
May 30, 2018 - The Save
Trailing the Golden Knights 1-0 in the Stanley Cup Final, the Caps were clinging to a one-goal lead with roughly two minutes remaining in Game 2. Vegas was pressing, and if they tied the game up late there was no telling where the series would go.
Enter Braden Holtby, who made a game-saving - and series-changing - stop on Alex Tuch that will forever be known simply as “The Save”:
We all know that Holtby is good... but yeah, we were all Alex Ovechkin in that moment.
June 7, 2018 - We Are the Champions, Babes!
23 games. 15 wins. Three series down. All that stood between the Caps and history was one win.
And we all know how it went down by now.
Sing it, boys:
June 7-11, 2018 - A Celebration to End All Celebrations
After 44 seasons and so much heartbreak, we all knew that the celebration when they finally won the Cup was going to be pretty awesome, but it’s probably safe to say none of us expected the party that spilled into the streets of the DMV the weekend after the win. From local eateries to appearances at the Nationals game to swimming in fountains to impromptu tattoos and delicious pasta meals and all the rest, it was a celebration to end all celebrations (literally). And it was glorious.
June 12, 2018 - The Caps Take Over DC
When the team finally (sort of) dried out long enough for their official celebration, they did so in style, with a rolling celebration down Constitution Ave. followed by a raucous rally on the Mall. It was a time for the team and the fans to appreciate one another one last time before the boys scattered for the summer, and they made sure to make it count:
It also spawned some of the greatest quotes of the summer:
“Everyone says that what happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas... but we brought the Cup home!” -Tom Wilson
“Back to back!” -TJ Oshie
“Finally, we started playing hockey like we can party.” -Nicklas Backstrom
“We’re not gonna be fucking suck this year! We’re the Stanley Cup Champions!” -Alex Ovechkin
“It’s yours, boys and girls and babes, let’s go!” -Alex Ovechkin
October 3, 2018 - The Banner Goes Up
A night that so many had waited so long to see ended up hitting all of the right notes as the Caps took the ice at Capital One Arena. The ceremony was elegant but celebratory, the banner sufficiently awe-inspiring... and the team made sure to put an exclamation point on the evening with a 7-0 shellacking of the visiting Boston Bruins. All in all, the perfect bookend to a celebration, over four decades in the making.