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#CapsKnights Postgame Notebook: Simply The Best

Some notes and brief ruminations on the Caps' playoff journey of the last two months, which culminated in the first Stanley Cup title in franchise history

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps /

Alex Ovechkin was deservedly named the recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded annually to the league's playoff MVP. That award also could have gone to Kuznetsov or to Braden Holtby. Niskanen, Oshie, Backstrom, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov and Tom Wilson were also consistently excellent or better throughout the 24-game run, accounting for all of Washington's high-minute players.

When a team's best players are consistently its best players night after night as was the case for the Caps this spring, then it looks to occasional timely contributions from the rest of the roster. The likes of Beagle, Eller, Orpik, Smith-Pelly, Vrana, Brett Connolly, Michal Kempny, Chandler Stephenson, Andre Burakovsky, Christian Djoos and Alex Chiasson provided those contributions. The remainder of the roster stepped up when needed for a game or two with Philipp Grubauer, Jakub Jerabek, Travis Boyd, Shane Gersich and Nathan Walker rounding out that group.

The combination of Washington's best players being at or near the tops of their respective games on most nights combined with varied, frequent and clutch contributions from the rest of the roster is what enabled the 2017-18 Caps to succeed where previous editions fell short.

The Talent Show - Caps assistant general manager Ross Mahoney and head amateur scout Steve Bowman's fingerprints were all over Washington's winning ride to the Cup championship. A dozen of the 20 Caps players dressed for the clinching Game 5 are Washington draft choices, as are five of the players who did not suit up for that contest.

Both Mahoney and Bowman have been plying their trade with the Caps for two decades now, so they and the team's coterie of amateur scouts been responsible for the pipeline of talent that has enabled Washington to reach the playoffs for 10 of the last 11 springs, and to finally push through for the Cup championship in 2018.  

The Caps' amateur scouts deserve a lot of credit for Washington's run to the Cup, but so do the team's pro scouts. Players such as Eller, Oshie, Kempny and Jerabek were acquired via the trade route, while others such as Niskanen, Orpik, Smith-Pelly, Chiasson and Connolly came to Washington as free agents.

All of Washington's scouts deserve accolades for their part in helping the Caps assemble the team that proved to have the right stuff when it was all said and done. Ten days or so from now, the Caps amateur scouts will get right back to work again at the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas. 

Conn Job - In winning the Conn Smythe Trophy for the first time, Ovechkin put his name on an extremely short list of four players in NHL history who have won as many as three Hart Trophies and at least one Conn Smythe.

The list: Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr and Ovechkin. That's some company to be keeping.

Ovechkin joined Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin (2009) as the second Russian to win the Smythe.

Cement Blocks - Four Washington defensemen - Carlson, Kempny, Niskanen and Orpik - combined to account for 49 of the Caps' total of 99 blocked shots in the Stanley Cup Final series against Vegas. That quartet of Caps blocked nearly as many shots as the entire Golden Knights roster (53).

Road Killers - Washington set a franchise record and tied the NHL record with 10 road victories in a single playoff year, becoming the fifth team to win 10 road games in a playoff year and the fourth to win 10 road games and a Stanley Cup in the same spring.

The Capitals also joined the 2008 Red Wings and the 2009 Penguins as just the third team in league history to earn all four of its series-clinching victories on the road.

Happy Trails - The Caps are just the second team to win the Stanley Cup despite trailing at some point in each of their four playoff series. Washington was down 0-2 to Columbus in the first round, it was down 0-1 to Pittsburgh in the second round, it trailed Tampa Bay 2-3 in the third round and it was down 0-1 to Vegas in the Cup Final before reeling off four straight victories to win the championship. 

The Capitals are the seventh team to win the Cup despite losing their first two games of the playoffs.

Comeback Caps - A total of 85 games were played in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and teams trailing after 40 minutes of play won only seven of those games. 

Washington was the only team in the league to author more than one comeback when trailing after two periods of play, and the Caps were responsible for three of the seven. They won Games 3 and 5 of the second-round series against Pittsburgh despite trailing after 40 minutes of play, and they won the Cup-clinching Game 5 of the final series against Vegas in the same fashion. 

Firsts - Ovechkin is the first Russian captain to hoist the Cup. Eller is the first Danish player to do so, and Walker is the first Australian player to lift it in victory. 

Beagle is the first player in North American hockey history to win the Kelly Cup (ECHL), the Calder Cup (AHL) and the Stanley Cup (NHL).

The Caps' Stanley Cup championship is the first pro hockey title for the District in 60 years. Way back in 1957-58, the Washington Presidents of the Eastern Hockey League won the league championship under the guidance of player-coach Steve Brklacich, beating the Charlotte Clippers in the final. The Eastern League was a six-team circuit that season, with the other teams operating out of New Haven, Johnstown, Philadelphia and Clinton (N.Y.). 

By The Numbers - Ovechkin set a franchise mark with 15 goals in the 2018 playoffs, breaking John Druce's previous mark of 14, which stood since 1990. Ovechkin also added to his all-time franchise records of 61 goals, 117 points and 121 games played … Backstrom added to his club record of 67 career playoff assists … With 55 career playoff points, Carlson is now the Caps' all-time leader among defensemen in playoff scoring, one point ahead of Calle Johansson (54). Carlson also heads the team's all-time ledger in career playoff goals (18) from a defenseman, and he established a record for most points (20) in a playoff season by a Washington defenseman … Kuznetsov led all players in scoring in the final series with eight points (one goal, seven assists) and he led all players in playoff scoring with 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) … Holtby's 16 wins and 2.16 GAA led all playoff netminders, and he added to his franchise record for playoff victories (45) … Smith-Pelly scored in each of Washington's last three playoff games, the first three-game goal scoring run of his NHL career … Washington is the first team in 16 years to win the Cup by winning four straight games in the final series. The Detroit Red Wings did so in 2002, claiming the Cup with four straight victories after dropping the series opener to the Carolina Hurricanes. Washington's four-game winning streak also handed the Vegas Golden Knights the very first four-game losing streak of that team's existence … Washington's 29.3% power-play success rate in the postseason is the fourth highest of all playoff teams with 60 or more extra-man opportunities since the league officially began tracking power play percentage in 1977-78. The Caps' 29.3% success rate is the highest of any playoff team (again, 60 or more opportunities) since the 1994 Toronto Maple Leafs came in at 29.7%.

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