The Washington Capitals are a professional hockey team in the NHL, based in Washington D.C.. The Capitals play on the Eastern Conference, which they have won it twice since the team's creation, in 1974. The last time the Capitals made it to the Stanley Cup Finals was in 2018, in which the team defeated the Vegas Golden Knights to win their first NHL championship ever. Since 1999 the team is owned by Ted Leonsis, a DC area businessman who also owns several other local sport teams. Although Leonsis has had some polemic moments throughout his time as the team's owner, he absolutely transformed the Washington Capitals, and much of their success is due to his ownership of the team.
Throughout time, the Washington Capitals changed their logos and color schemes a couple of times. Seven years after purchasing the franchise, Ted Leonsis changed the team's colors to white, blue, which was the original color scheme back in 1974, when the team was founded. The logo was also altered to resemble the Caps' first logo. With that, Leonsis aimed to bring back the team's traditional. In addition to being a very hands on owner, Leonsis also owns where the team plays, the Capital One Arena, in downtown Washington D.C.. Hockey fans attending the game can be sure to stop the team's mascot, Slapshot, goofing around and getting the crowd excited. The Capitals are also present in minor and development hockey leagues throughout North America. The Hershey Bears of the AHLand the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL are both minor league affiliates of the Washington Capitals.
In 1972 Washington D.C; was granted an expansion NHL franchise, which would start its operations in 1974. That way the Capitals were born, bearing the american flag's colors and playing in an arena located in Maryland. The team's owner was the same as the Baltimore Bullets, Abe Pollin. It is true that expansion teams tend to struggle in their first season, but the Washington Capitals went beyond that. They posted the worst record in NHL history, which stands till today, winning a total of eight games, losing 67, and drawing five. The team would post an equally bad record in 1975, finishing last in the league, again. It took Caps fans a while to be happy; after eight years posting the worst records in the league, the Caps finally made it to the playoffs.
The previous season Washignton hosted the NHL's All Star Game for the first time ever. The event was proof that although the team hadn't really been successful, people in the D.C. had indeed a big interest in hockey, as the team's arena in suburban Washington was sold out for the game. That same year the team would acquire Rod Langway, Brian Engblom, Craig Laughlin, and Doug Jarvis in a blockbuster trade that would completely change the team's quality. Langway would win the Norris Trophy, given to the league's best defender,that same year.
The players acquired by the Capitals would power the team to its first playoff appearance in 8 years, by posting the franchise's first winning regular season record. Unfortunately for fans in Washington, the team faced the legendary New York Islanders team in the first round of the playoffs. The Islanders would get passed through the Caps and proceed to win the Stanley Cup. The 1983 playoff qualification would spark a streak for the Capitals, they would make it to the playoffs, 14 seasons in a row, from 1983 to 1996.
The Capitals 14 year straight postseason streak was broken in 1997. During those 14 years, the team was able to post spectacular regular season records and have amazing numbers. However, the same performance in the playoffs. Washington did make it past the quarter finals in any of those trips to the playoffs. The team suffered upsets and heartbreaking defeats against unexpected teams, it also blew several comfortable leads in playoff series. The franchise would also repeatedly have poor playoff performances later in its history, and until very recently, Washington was known as a franchise that choked in the playoffs.
After missing the 1997 playoffs for the first time in a while, the team made it back into the postseason the following year, behind players like Jon Juneau, Peter Bondra, and Olaf Kozig. The team posted an average regular season record, and finished with the 5th seed on the eastern conference. Although the team was far from being favorites to win the Stanley Cup, the team advanced all the way to the finals in a thrilling overtime game 6 against the Buffalo Sabres, for a chance to fight for the trophy. In their first Stanley Cup Finals the Caps looked to keep their Cinderella story rolling, but unfortunately their opponents, the Detroit Red Wings, did not give them a chance; the swept the Caps in four games. Although the season ended, the team's first shot at the Stanley Cup is held dearly by Capitals fans.
Since winning the Estern Conference, the Capitals had been sold to its current owner, Ted Leonsis. With Leonsis, came the need to rebuild after the deep run in 1998. The team's first try of building a new core were around experienced and successful veteran Jaromir Jagr. Jagr did not perform as well as expected. After only three years in D.C., Jagr got traded to the New York Rangers in 2004, and the Capitals were in rebuild mode again. That same year, the team finished with the second worst record in the NHL, which earned them the first pick in the 2004 draft. The Caps would select who would become the most important player in franchise history, Alexander Ovechkin, a russian prospect who was the consensus first pick on that year's draft. It would take Ovechkin a whole year to play in D.C., as the NHL was in lockout. When he finally did, hes impact was immediate. Ovi, how he was nicknamed, became the most exciting young hockey player in the NHL, and would become the face of the Washington Capitals in the next decade.
Alex Ovechkin had developed into one of the best players in the NHL. He had won awards like the Hart Trophy, the Maurice Richard Trophy, and the Pearson Trophy multiple times. The Capitals had also brought and developed important pieces such as defenseman Mike Green. In the past seasons the team had consistently made the playoffs, but were not able to live up to the expectations, always losing before having an actual shot at the title. But 2010 looked like the year where the Caps could go all the way to the Stanley Cup finals and once and for all send their bad luck away. During the regular season, the team finished at the top of the Eastern Conference, with the best record in the team's history, while also winning the President's Trophy. Ovechkin kept up the good play in previous seasons. It seemed impossible for a team who was so dominant during the regular season to not have a deep playoff run. However, the unimaginable happened. The Capitals, who were the first seed, shockingly got eliminated in the first round by the Montreal Canadiens, who were the eighth seed, after having a 3-1 series lead. The unexpected loss contributed to team's reputation of cracking in the playoffs, as it happened during the 1980's. That fame would continue to go on in the future, and the Caps would only find redemption later on. The loss to the Canadiens was one of the more painful ones in franchise history, as expectations were really high for the team in that season.
The 2017-18 season would be Alex Ovechkin's 12th season in the league, all of them playing for the Washington Capitals. Although being one of the all-time greatest hockey players ever, Ovi had never made it past the second round in the playoffs. In addition, the Capitals seemed to have a curse during the playoffs, and were many times made fun of because of their poor playoff performance. In its 44 year story, the team had made it to the playoffs 28 times, and reached the Stanley Cup Final only once. In 2018, the team was still centered around Ovi, who would win his seventh Maurice Richard Trophy; but other players like Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom would be crucial in the 2018 playoffs. After posting yet another good regular season record, the team reached the Stanley Cup finals for the second time ever, proving all the doubters wrong. The franchise and Ovechkin were not done, they weren't satisfied with second place and had something to prove. The Washington Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights to raise the Stanley Cup. Washington had finally won it all. The first person to raise the Cup was Alex Ovechkin, who had given his sweat, blood, and tears for this franchise, and was now living the best moment of his career. The tough history of the Caps, the unexpected defeats, and all the upsets suffered, only made their 2018 title much sweeter.
Take a look at the numbers retired by the Washington Capitals: