On June 7, 2018, the Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in team history. It was just two years ago. It was two years ago when all the frustration of past playoff failures made this win that much sweeter, two years ago that the championship drought in Washington officially ended, two years ago when fans lined the streets of the city to celebrate.
Now, in 2020, we have the unique perspective of being able to look back at the 2018 run with anticipation for what could happen in 2020. Last year on June 7, the Boston Bruins led the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in the Stanley Cup Final. Washington's season was long over at that point as the Caps lost in the first round.
In 2020, however, the coronavirus pandemic has pushed everything back and the playoffs have not yet begun. Now Washington fans can relive those moments from 2018 and hope that this year Washington will have the chance to do it all again.
There are some people who are not happy about that. There are those who argue that the 2019-20 season is now tainted because of the pause to the season and those who look at the NHL's 24-team return to play format and scoff, saying this year's winner will deserve an asterisk. There are valid reasons why you may feel that way. I have argued before why you shouldn't, but this anniversary may be the best argument of all.
One of the best parts of the 2018 Cup run was knowing that it would live on. Regardless of what happened in the future, whether the team fell apart after the win and the championship window was closed, whether the Alex Ovechkin-led Caps never won the Cup again, the Washington Capitals would always be the 2018 champions. Their names will always be engraved on the Cup and that championship banner will always hang from the rafters of the arena.
In 2018-19, Washington lost in the first round to a team that, on paper, they should have crushed. In 2019-20, the Caps were seriously struggling before the season was paused. It's hard to think the team would have managed to fend off a red-hot Philadelphia Flyers team to hold onto the division lead. But you know what? Two years ago the Caps were still named the Stanley Cup champs. That didn't change! That is the best part of being a champion and it will be true of the 2020 winners as well.
You may not like the 2020 playoff format, but at the end of the day, the winners will have their names engraved on the Cup and they will hang a banner from the rafters to commemorate it. Years from now on the anniversary of when that team hoisted the Cup, articles like this one will be written on what it means. The 2020 champions will always be the 2020 champions and nothing can take that away.
So while you celebrate the 2018 Cup run, get excited for the 2020 postseason and save your asterisk. If the Caps take the Cup, that banner will be just as big when its unfurled at Capital One Arena because they will forever be the 2020 Stanley Cup champions.
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