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Stanley Cup

Capitals put wrap on Stanley Cup party with White House visit

Focused on repeat following final celebration of last season's title

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- In a way, the timing for the Washington Capitals' visit to the White House on Monday worked out perfectly.

Coming with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, being honored for winning the Stanley Cup last season served as a final reminder of how special of an achievement it was, and that they'll soon begin their quest to try to do it again.

"This has been the one final thing that's been out there, so whenever it was going to fall, then that would be basically the last one for me," Capitals coach Todd Reirden said before leaving for the White House. "I think that will kind of put a wrap on it and [be] the final chapter of that moving forward into finishing up the regular season here and moving some of that success into playoffs this year."

With six regular-season games remaining, including the first game of a home-and-home series against the Carolina Hurricanes at Capital One Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBCSW, NHL.TV), Washington (44-24-8) is first in the Metropolitan Division with 96 points and closing in on clinching a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.

Although Capital One Arena is less than a mile from the White House, working out the logistics of when the Capitals would visit took some time. They eventually settled on a private visit to tour the residence and meet with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

Tweet from @NBCSCapitals: .@ovi8 delivered a speech next to his teammates, the Stanley Cup, and @realDonaldTrump in the Oval Office pic.twitter.com/JTfgrYDVmd

Seventeen players remaining with the Capitals from their championship team attended. Goalie Braden Holtby and forward Brett Connolly chose not to attend.

The Capitals were accompanied by Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and the Stanley Cup.

"You brought the Stanley Cup home," Trump said. "Thousands of adoring fans greeted you. They were all over the place. And I have a feeling you're going to be doing it again. You're champions. You have a champion's heart. … … You're winners in the highest sense. It's very tough to win. It's very tough to go through all those teams. I really tell you I think you're going to have an awfully good chance of doing it again."

Earlier in the day, the Cup made a brief private visit to the Supreme Court along with Commissioner Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Daly, NHL general counsel David Zimmerman and Raul Fernandez, vice chairman and owner of Monumental Sports and Entertainment. It was the Cup's first visit to the Supreme Court, where the justices and court employees had an opportunity to view the trophy.

The Capitals met up with the Cup at the White House.

"Thank you very much for having us," Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. "It's a huge honor for us to be here and meet you personally. We're going to try to do it again. We have the same team. Experienced team. We have a good group of guys and we're going to try to do it again."

It was Ovechkin's first visit to the White House. Defenseman Brooks Orpik was the only Capitals player from their Cup-winning team to go previously. He also went to the White House after winning the Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009.

"I think every championship team has to go there," Ovechkin said. "It's a huge privilege."

The Capitals presented Trump with a Capitals jersey with his name and No. 45 on the back and a gold stick that was engraved, "Presented to President Donald J. Trump in recognition of the Washington Capitals 2018 Stanley Cup Championship June 7, 2018."

Trump lauded Ovechkin, the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player in the playoffs, for leading the Capitals to the Cup and leading the NHL with 49 goals in the regular season and a career-high 15 in the postseason.

"Nobody did more to deserve the Conn Smythe Trophy," Trump said. "Alex, congratulations, and we're going to be all watching you in a couple of weeks and I have no doubt your team is going to do great." 

Nearly 10 months have passed since the Capitals' 4-3 win against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on June 7 and the parade down Constitution Avenue on June 12. The Capitals not only won the Cup for the first time in their 43-season history, they also brought Washington its first major professional sports championship since the Redskins won the Super Bowl following the 1991 NFL season.

Getting to relive some of that excitement and be around the Stanley Cup again on Monday was a welcome break from the long grind of the regular season.

"It's always nice to get together and talk about it a little bit," forward Jakub Vrana said. "Obviously, the feeling was unbelievable. It was awesome to do it, especially around this group here. We're really excited about the push and to try to do it again."

That, of course, will be the Capitals' focus going forward. 

Remembering what happened last season was nice. Making new memories by repeating as Cup champions would be even better.

The Capitals know they're capable of doing it because their roster remains mostly the same. Of the 20 players who dressed for Game 5 at Vegas, only fourth-line center Jay Beagle (signed with the Vancouver Canucks as an unrestricted free agent) and backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer (traded to the Colorado Avalanche) did not return. 

The Capitals also brought in some reinforcements before the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 25 by acquiring forward Carl Hagelin, a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Penguins, from the Los Angeles Kings and defenseman Nick Jensen from the Detroit Red Wings.

So, with the start of the playoffs approaching, the Capitals' excitement is starting to build.

"That's why we play all those games just to be in the playoffs," Ovechkin said.

Unlike in past seasons, no one has to tell the Capitals about the payoff at the end because they lived it last season. But it was fun to be reminded of it Monday. 

"That's the inherent positive to it of being this late in the season," Reirden said. "Now, it's a good reminder of the special things that our group did and kind of finishing that chapter of that story off. … So, I think it's coming at the right time for us."

Tweet from @keeperofthecup: Check out the gold stick which was presented to the President from the @Capitals today. Pretty cool. @NHL @WhiteHouse @HockeyHallFame pic.twitter.com/9O3DT4jdgu

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