Curse broken? Caps make Stanley Cup Finals


The Caps celebrate after defeating the Penguins in Game 6 of the Conference Semifinals.

The final buzzer sounded, and the city of Washington, D.C. went into an uproar. This happened on May 23, when the Washington Capitals defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals by the score of 4-0 to advance to the National Hockey League (NHL) Stanley Cup Finals for the second time in franchise history, and the first time in 20 years, and breaking the perceived D.C. sports playoff curse.

In recent years, all Washington, D.C. sports have had a painful history of achieving great success during the regular season, then falling during the playoffs. The Capitals have been no exception to this trend. This year, however, the team was able to put it together, defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Lightning in the first, second, and third rounds respectively. For Capitals fans, these playoff triumphs were a huge relief, and  overwhelmingly exciting moments.

“I’m super psyched because the last ten years as a D.C. fan have been pretty hard,” junior Capitals fan Luke Anzaldi said. “The Caps have always come so close but have never quite gotten it. So I kind of fell off the wagon, but they didn’t choke in the first round, so I started watching all the games and now they’ve won [the Eastern Conference].”

Washington defeated the Blue Jackets in the first round in six games. Losing the first two games, the Capitals were able to come back to win the next four games. The series was highlighted by a game-winning, double overtime goal from Lars Eller in Game 3, a two-goal performance from Nicklas Backstrom in Game 5, and two goals from franchise player Alex Ovechkin in Game 6.

In the second round, the Capitals took on the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Washington won this back-and forth-series in six games as well. The highlight of this series was undoubtedly the Game 6 victory, when Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a game-winning overtime goal to send the Capitals to the Eastern Conference Finals to face Tampa Bay.

The Capitals would face a daunting task in the Eastern Conference Finals, for the Lightning had the best regular season record of any team in the NHL. However, it was evident that Tampa Bay’s regular season success didn’t phase the Capitals. Washington got off to a strong start in the series, winning Games 1 and 2 by the scores of 4-2 and 6-2. Washington’s early success then disappeared as the Lightning won the next three games, taking the series lead.

With their backs against the wall, and another postseason elimination looming, the Capitals were able to bounce back from these losses, winning Games 6 and 7, and advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals to face the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Their determination showed, and the city of Washington, D.C. celebrated something that has not happened for then in 20 years.

The Capitals are now up three games to one in the finals against Golden Knights. They will play Game 5 on Thursday at 9 p.m. in Las Vegas looking to close out the series, and win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

“It’s gratifying because [the Capitals] have come so close for years now, but they’ve never been able to pull it off,” junior Capitals fan Isabella Frymoyer said. “It has just made this year that much more special.