A rebuttal to the detractors who continue to discredit Ovechkin, Capitals

J.J. Regan
NBC Sports Washington

There's just something about Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, was included among the NHL's Top 100 Greatest Players list and is the best goal-scorer of his generation, perhaps even of all-time. And yet, no all-time great seems to undergo the same scrutiny or has their individual accomplishments called into question nearly as much as Ovechkin or, by extension, the Capitals.

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The only real blemish on Ovechkin's career, if you could call it that, was the fact that he had not won a Stanley Cup.

First, the degree of importance we give winning the Stanley Cup towards a person's individual legacy is ridiculous. Ovechkin averaged 20:44 of ice time per game in the playoffs, about a third of a 60-minute NHL game. Compare that to a player like LeBron James who averaged nearly 42 minutes in the playoffs. An NBA game is 48 minutes long. An NHL player simply has less of an opportunity to impact a game than in a league like the NBA.

But even if you do believe a player must win a championship to be considered an all-time great, Ovechkin and the Capitals have now crossed that off the list. And yet, there are still those who find the need to further discredit Washington's accomplishment.

Take, for example, this hilariously bad take from Keith Olberman.

Wow, where to begin with this one...

While the rest of the world smiles at the endearing celebration tour the Caps have gone on since winning the Cup, Olberman decided they looked just too happy and simply could not keep his erroneous, flawed opinion to himself.

Yes, this was the first season for the Golden Knights, but this is not 1968 when the NHL expanded from six to 12 teams and put all six of those expansion teams in their own conference. The Golden Knights had to earn their way to the Final and they did just that.

Vegas earned 109 points in the regular season and won the Pacific Division, a division that included seven other teams who were all not expansion teams. The Golden Knights blew through the West in the playoffs on their way to a conference crown, losing just three times total in three rounds against the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and a Winnipeg Jets team that boasted the second-best record in the NHL.

The fact that Vegas is an expansion team became irrelevant the moment the puck dropped on the 2017-18 season.

And let's also not forget who the Caps had to beat just to get there. Washington had to dispatch the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning who finished atop the Eastern Conference. Washington did not have an easy round to the Cup simply because Vegas was there at the end of it.

If Olberman truly felt this way that means the Stanley Cup Final became tainted the moment the Golden Knights won the Western Conference. What if  Pittsburgh beat the Caps again and went on to win their third straight championship? Does that not count either?

Three straight Cups? More like 2 and a half straight Cups, am I right?

It's probably better that the Penguins lost . How unfortunate would it have been for them to battle all the way through the Eastern Conference for the third straight year just to find out the Stanley Cup had been canceled this season because the wrong team won the West? Bummer.

Olberman was not alone in his attempt to discredit the Capitals, however. Larry Brooks of the New York Post decided to chime in with his charmingly titled column, "Stanley Cup win doesn't erase Alex Ovechkin's ledger of losing."

Brooks writes:

This time, the winner of the Patrick Ewing Lifetime Achievement Award for most failed postseason guarantees got it right. He scored difference-making goals, made difference-making plays. This time, too, neither Ovechkin nor the Caps had to go through Henrik Lundqvist, the way they couldn't in successive seven-game defeats in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

Brooks seems to have forgotten a few things like the fact that Henrik Lundqvist has yet to win a Stanley Cup, but I doubt very much Brooks would consider King Henry's career a "ledger of losing."

Sorry New York, but the Penguins were the Capitals' ultimate playoff foil, not the Rangers. In the Ovechkin era, the Caps have met the Rangers five times in the postseason and won twice. Prior to this season, Ovechkin had faced Pittsburgh three times and lost all three. Yes, a 2-3 playoff record is a losing record, but (and please correct me if my math is wrong) two wins are still more than zero. Plus, in all three of those losses to Pittsburgh, the Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup each time. The Rangers, meanwhile, have not won the Cup since 1994.

So no, the Caps did not have to beat Lundqvist to validate their Cup run. Washington exorcised all the postseason demons they needed to in wins over the Penguins, Marc-Andre Fleury and even winning a Game 7 in the conference final.

To suggest the Caps had to also go through Lundqvist to really wipe the slate clean on their postseason history is ridiculous. Seriously, how many different qualifiers did the Caps need?

"For me personally, I won't give the Capitals credit until they get a time machine, go back to 2010, add Martin Erat and Esa Tikkanen to the roster, beat Jaroslav Halak and the Montreal Canadiens, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers, go back in time again to 1998 and beat Scotty Bowman's Detroit Red Wings all with Adam Oates and a 15-year-old Filip Forsberg watching from the stands while playing the decisive game during a full moon on Friday the 13th."

The Stanley Cup is the most difficult trophy to win in all of sports. You don't get to arbitrarily decide that's no longer true just because it was Vegas who made the final, because Lundqvist was watching from home or because it was the Caps who came out on top.

Whenever the NHL decides to start putting asterisks on the Trophy, let me know. Until then, all the detractors out there will just have to get used to the fact that Ovechkin's legacy is secure and the Capitals are Stanley Cup champions.

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