Good morning, welcome to Ovy’s world. The look on that man’s face said it all last night. All the years of shit he’s taken, especially after last season, what a moment that was. Sometimes the Cup presentation isn’t what you think its going to be. Nobody remembers Derian Hatcher lifting it when captain of the Stars, or either time Dustin Brown got to do it. And its nothing against those players, damn good players, but they just don’t stand out. Ovechkin’s though, that one is going to be iconic. So I got a few different things to hit on today, but obviously the Caps are going to dominate this edition of what is normally titled “Hot Takes”.
First, as pumped as I am for Ovy, he wasn’t the MVP of the Caps in the playoffs. I have no issue in the slightest with Ovy winning the Conn Smythe. But if Brett Connolly has Ovy’s numbers, he isn’t beating out Evgeny Kuznetsov. I talked about Kuznetsov at length a few weeks ago, so I apologize if I’m just repeating a lot of that, but I just can’t believe how far this kid has come. After the 2016 playoffs I really believed the kid was just a second line winger who Barry Trotz was forced to use in the middle due to a lack of depth. This year, he emerged as a legitimate first line centre and was the biggest reason the Caps won it all. Right before they got bounced last year (went down 3-1 to Pittsburgh), I looked at their situation and said “they’ve got a second line centre as their first line centre (Backstrom), a second line winger as their second line centre (Kuznetsov), and a very good top four D-man trying to be their horse on the blueline (Carlson)”. I truly believed that. This year, Kuznetsov emerged as a very legit first line centre, and Carlson was all world. You want the reasons the Caps won it all, those are the two biggest right there.
But they aren’t the only reasons, far from it.
Let’s not forget here that not every Cup is won equally. And this is in no way to piss on the accomplishment, but its highly likely they don’t get here without seeing a completely gassed Pens team in the second round. More importantly perhaps, is they don’t get here without having next to no pressure all season because everyone counted them out. Its so freaky how similar this was to watching the 97 Red Wings run as a kid. After three straight amazing regular seasons and three straight playoff failures, the Red Wings were a complete afterthought going into the 97 playoffs. I’ve always liked the Caps, but I was pissing on their chances as much as anyone, if not more so coming into this post-season! I wasn’t pulling against them at all, more so they were like the babe in high school who wouldn’t go out with me (hypothetically that is, because I got all the babes, shout out to Sarah Watts….that was for you flow). You think you’re going to get her every time she’s single so you ask her out and every time she shuts you down. And you HATE her, until the next time she’s single. That was the Caps. I picked them probably three or four different times, and every time they did what they did. This time, had them going out with relative ease to Columbus….and here we are. But seriously, having no expectations is massive for a hockey club. Look at the team they faced in the final. No expectations all season, thrived off it, got to the final and were the favourites, and all of a sudden they were a much different club.
Of course, the Golden Knights didn’t feel like a different club the entire way, and that picture is the moment they lost their mojo. I said it on Twitter last night but I’ll say it again here: this save now goes from amazing highlight, to iconic NHL moment. It might not be up there with Bobby Orr’s goal, but its living in the same part of town. Given the stage and the circumstances, its as great of a save as we’ve ever seen in the history of the league. Marc-Andre Fleury had a big one in 2009, Curtis Joseph had a stunner in 1997, Kirk McLean had an amazing one in 1994. I realize those were all massive, all in game seven, but I really believe that Holtby’s was better. And think about his road to the Cup for a minute. He was benched the first two games of the playoffs!!! They quit on him! He was coming off maybe the worst regular season of his career! And yet, here we are. Vegas scores that goal, they keep their momentum, it would have been a really flukey goal which they were thriving off of all season, mentally that save completely shifted the series to the Caps favour, and basically sunk the Golden Knights. (more on Holtby at the end of this blog)
I guess I should say something about the Golden Knights while I’m at it. People get it twisted when I talk about them. I don’t hate any of the players, love the coach, love the GM. And I don’t believe they were a fluke (maybe the Winnipeg series), yet I completely know that they had everything bounce the right way for them this season. Its so damn easy to play with no expectations, a scorching hot goaltender, and absolutely nothing going against you. We finally seen it in the final, they were a different team once the bounces started going against them. Once they got down in games and down in a series. And in game four, they were the better team…and got shit kicked because the bounces went completely against them. Last night in the second period the bounces started going for them again, and all of a sudden by the end of the period they were looking like they did in the Winnipeg series. In the third, both Washington goals were off of fortunate bounces. The team that “just doesn’t quit”, completely quit. Except for they didn’t “quit”, just like any other team that has bounces go against them, their belief was fading. They were living off momentum the whole way. I’m not in anyway looking to take away how hard they worked or how great of a story they were, not at all. But I try to be a realist, and the realist in me says that we’ve seen this happen a lot in the league over the years (1991 North Stars, 1996 Panthers, 2003 Mighty Ducks, 2004 Flames, 2006 Oilers, etc). These teams all rode momentum, amazing health, and/or amazing goaltending. Hey, the Caps were lucky too! Look at the bounce they got in game three of the opening series vs Columbus. Lars Eller’s OT “goal”. Backstrom was able to return from injury, Kuznetsov wasn’t seriously injured from the hit McNabb gave him in game two, so without a doubt no matter who the team is you need to get bounces. And its not as if anyone is saying the Golden Knights were lazy and didn’t work for it, but the truth is that they had just about everything that had to go their way, go their way. Nobody should be the least bit shocked if they don’t make the playoffs next season, because now we’ll have new contracts in that room and there for bigger egos, teams will make the adjustments in the off-season to how they play, some of the personal will change, and expectations will be high. A dream season, and I honestly mean this, congratulations to everyone involved (even though its likely only 50 people read this and none of them will have any connections to the Knights). Now, go prove a guy like me wrong. Prove you can fight through injuries, shaky goaltending and high expectations. I’ll be the first guy to sing their praises.
Onto a few other things….
First, Lou Lamoriello shedding Garth Snow, well done Lou! I don’t know who is happier with that, Islanders fans or Oilers fans! But fleecing his buddy Peter aside, Garth Snow did an awful job as Islanders GM. There was some stuff he got right, but at the end of the day, John Tavares is a borderline superstar. And Garth Snow couldn’t build a consistent winner around John Tavares. Sure, he had some ownership issues and budget issues early on in the Tavares tenure, but those faded as the years went on and the best they ever did was one win in the second round of the playoffs. And now who will be the new GM? Realistically, I’m sure it’ll actually be Lou. But the title will likely be given to someone else. And the coach? I really believe the reason Barry Trotz never got extended in Washington is because he is leaving and he’s the one who wants out, not that the Caps want him out. It could easily change now that they’ve won, winning cures all! But we’ll see. I will say for the Islanders, now that Lamoriello is in charge, I fully expect him to get Tavares re-signed.
So I got called a racist yesterday. Yep. My fear of taking Russian FORWARDS (not even a blanket statement of Russians, and not that I wouldn’t draft them, just wouldn’t take them as high in a draft as others because of how poorly they’re consistently evaluated) was ACTUALLY twisted into me being racist on HF Boards last night by a couple of posters. I know this isn’t really to do with sports, but holy shit is this ever an example of society is operating today. “I don’t like a fact that someone pointed out, so I’m going to look to ruin this person by playing the race card.” Its disgusting. And if either of those guys were face to face with me, no doubt neither would say such a thing.
Anyway, hope you’re ready for a ton of draft talk on here in the next two weeks. Its my Christmas, and I’m fired up for it. Two more mocks, one more top prospect list (likely top 62, no less than 50 again, maybe as much as a top 100), and a bunch of other blogs that I’m hoping to get done over this weekend and put out daily. It’ll be super annoying, but if you know me, then you know that suits me perfectly.
In closing, congrats again to the Washington Captials and specifically to the entire Holtby family!!! Couldn’t be happier for the them, and anyone will tell they are all just tremendous people! I’ve only had the pleasure a few times, but I had heard that prior to meeting them and they completely lived up to that reputation when I did. Braden has done Marshall, Lloyd, Lashburn, the entire area just so damn proud!
Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups