10 Ways the Washington Capitals Can Blow a Chance to Win the Stanley Cup

Because we care about you, Caps fans, we are here to balance out all those who think a Washington win is a foregone conclusion.
June 5, 2018, 2:39pm
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals dismantled the Vegas Golden Knights 6-2 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night to grab a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and can clinch the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in Las Vegas on Thursday night. We can only wonder how this series would be different if the Golden Knights hadn’t allowed Imagine Dragons to perform on their own ice before Game 2.

Everything has gone right for the Capitals since losing Game 1. They’ve won three straight by a combined 12-5. They’re getting the bounces. They’re getting the saves from Braden Holtby. They’re getting production from the stars and supplemental scoring from the deepest of depths on the roster. There’s a commitment to defense, blocking shots, and sacrificing for the team. Everything that can go right for the Capitals over the past three games has gone right.

That leaves us with one obvious question: how will this go wrong for the Capitals?

In the history of the NHL, only once has a team come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Final, and that was when Toronto rallied to beat Detroit in 1942 after climbing out of a 3-0 series hole. It’s been 76 years since it happened in the final round, so you understand why neutral observers feel the Capitals raising the Cup is inevitable while Capitals fans are trembling at the thought of becoming the first team in nearly eight decades to choke this hard.

Capitals fans will spend the two days before Game 5 managing a gag reflex when they hear people treating the outcome to this series as a foregone conclusion, so that’s not what I will do here. Because I care, I will instead list ten ways the Capitals can blow this series in ways only the Caps can do it.

It’s negativity, but it’s negativity because I care.

1. Nate Schmidt scores the winning goal in the next three games.

The Canadian media blames the loss on Ovechkin for “disappearing” over the final three games.

2. The Caps take the ice for Game 5 in Vegas. It’s dark and smoky, as the pregame festivities involving the knight lighting the Declaration of Independence on fire went a little too far. It’s not until the national anthem when fans and media notice—that’s not Holtby between the pipes. But who is it? He’s short, the jersey is ill-fitting and causing the nameplate to be obscured. Could that ... is that…

Yes. Ted Leonsis has decided he’s playing goalie in Game 5.

Vegas scores 31 goals on 35 shots to set an NHL record for most-lopsided playoff win. When Leonsis faces the media afterward, he says he played so he could get his name on the Cup when the Caps win. When it’s pointed out that as owner he would get his name on the Cup, he says, “Oh.” The Caps lose Games 6 and 7 by scores of 1-0 with Holtby in net.

The Canadian media blames the loss on Ovechkin “disappearing” over the final three games.

3. On his first shift of Game 5, Tom Wilson attempts a flying, skates-up dropkick of Jonathan Marchessault. But at the last second, Marchessault ducks and Wilson beheads Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov with each skate. The sight of their mangled friends is too much to overcome as Vegas wins 6-1.

Wilson is allowed to play Games 6 and 7 after making bail and avoiding a suspension by NHL Player Safety — “As the video shows, Wilson attempts to behead Marchessault in the flow of play and technically Ovechkin and Kuznetsov didn’t suffer concussions”— but it turns out he’s not very good without Kuznetsov and Ovechkin. Wilson in Games 6 and 7 finds a way to post the first negative raw Corsi rating in statistical history and score two goals into his own net as the Caps lose the series.

The Canadian media blames the loss on Ovechkin “disappearing” over the final three games.

4. Vegas staves off elimination in Game 5. Upon returning to DC for Game 6, the Capitals find themselves locked out of their building. After making a few calls, they learn Donald Trump has used executive authority to secure the building for a speaking engagement entitled, “Pardon Me? Pardon Yourself! People Are Saying It’s The Best Pardoning Rally You’ve Ever Seen!” and the ice isn’t available for the game despite only about 800 people in the arena for the rally.

The NHL moves the game to Vegas. The Capitals lose Game 6, stay in the city during the two days before Game 7 and get thrashed 6-0 with the entire team sunburned and dehydrated from a 48-hour pool party at the Wynn.

The Canadian media blames the loss on Ovechkin “disappearing” over the final three games.

5. Alex Ovechkin scores a hat trick in Game 5, a hat trick in Game 6, and two goals in Game 7. The Caps lose each game by one goal.

The Canadian media blames the loss on Ovechkin “disappearing” over the final three games.

6. Alex Ovechkin disappears over the final three games. Like, nobody can find him. It turns out he was a secret Russian agent and had his cover blown right after Game 4 so he returned to Russia, leaving behind his young daughter at a train station and his hockey-playing son to live with his FBI friend.

The Canadian media blames the loss on Ovechkin “disappearing” over the final three games. They finally have a point.

7. The Capitals outshoot the Golden Knights by a combined 155-60 over the final three games but still succumb to Vegas. It’s not until late in Game 7 with the Knights ahead 4-0 that people realize what’s been happening the past three games—Jaroslav Halak has been in the stands behind Marc-Andre Fleury, giving the Capitals flashbacks to 2011. Halak even switches sides after each period in both arenas so he is always sitting at the end the Caps are shooting.

The Canadian media blames the loss on Ovechkin “disappearing” over the final three games.

8. Vegas plays well, gets some bounces, Fleury returns to the form he showed the first three rounds, and Vegas wins three in a row. The Caps are just bad from top to bottom; nobody plays well.

The Canadian media blames the loss on Ovechkin “disappearing” over the final three games.

9. We’re back in Washington for Game 6. A cute little girl behind the glass during warmups is waving at Nicklas Backstrom so he will throw her a puck. Backstrom flips a puck over the glass but a dad grabs it and hands it to a boy. Backstrom tries again, but a different dad passes the puck to a different boy.

Backstrom unsheathes a sword from his stick, which it turns out has been hiding this weapon for years. He jumps the glass (we later learn that Backstrom is a Swedish superhero) and begins to chase the dads up the stairs while wielding his stick-sword and bellowing “You will taste the steel of The Swedevenger!” The dads quizzically look at each other while running in fear but decide that’s probably a really cool name in Sweden.

Backstrom corners the dads and thrashes them using Abbassa, the ancient Swedish martial art he learned in the mountains of Helagsfjället and Kaskasapakte. Backstrom hands a puck to that girl as the gathered crowd cheers.

Unfortunately, attacking people with a sword is extremely illegal, which means Backstrom has to spend the rest of the series in prison. Vegas capitalizes on this and rolls to easy wins in the final two games.

The Canadian media blames the loss on Ovechkin “disappearing” over the final three games.

10. Gerard Gallant finally snaps. “Ryan Reaves has meant so much to this team,” he says to the gathered media in Las Vegas on Wednesday, “and that’s why he’s our starting goaltender for Game 5.”

Everyone laughs but when Reaves takes the ice for Game 5, it turns out Gallant wasn’t kidding. But Reaves is not wearing goalie equipment in net, he's dressed in his usual skater equipment. The first shot of the game, a one-time rocket from Ovechkin, beats Reaves to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead and signal the start of a championship coronation.

Alas, Reaves does not allow another goal the rest of the series. He decides to drop the gloves for the last three games—not to fight—but to punch away every Capitals shot. He uses his fists to shatter shots, bend rubber, lift Vegas to a title, and win a Conn Smythe Trophy. It’s the perfect end to Vegas’s unexplainable season.

The Canadian media wants to blame the loss on Ovechkin “disappearing” over the final three games but they all died and ascended to heaven after voting Reaves the postseason MVP.