© Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

3 Reasons The Capitals Are 1 Win Away From The Cup

June 05, 2018 - 12:47 pm

By Alex Woodward

The Capitals are one game away from their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Not only are they on the verge of making franchise history but they are also one game away from snapping a 26 year championship drought in DC. The streak was getting so long that I half anticipated another heart breaking loss which would have been followed by a blog titled, "DC Sports: The New Factory of Sadness". That hasn't been the case so far and they can now silence the critics and my pessimism with one more win in their next three games.

In years past, the Capitals have notoriously been one of the biggest threats during the regular season but they always came up short when it mattered most. So what has been the difference in this years run? I think it comes down to 3 reasons.

Reason 1 - The Hockey Gods

Since the dawn of their existence, the Capitals have been on the wrong end of unlucky bounces, missed open shots, incredible saves, missed penalty calls etc. You name the situation and a Caps fan can give you an example of when they were on the wrong end of it; but this year things have been different. They finally got over the hump against the Penguins and in this particular series, they have had a good bit of luck on their side. Game 2 will be known for "the save" where Braden Holtby made a sprawling stick save on Alex Tuch's shot that would have been a goal if he shot the puck any higher than 12 inches off the ground. Game 4 also had a strong influence from the hockey gods. In the first period the Knights were lighting up the net with multiple scoring chances but they hit shots off the post twice and once again, shot the puck the only place that wouldn't result in a goal.

I mean c'mon look at how wide open that is. Neal ultimately shot that into the post. Historically, it would have been a Caps jersey missing that shot but not this year.

Reason 2 - The Tom Wilson effect

The Capitals have always been a physical hockey team but this year Tom Wilson has served as a catalyst for other players. Not only does Wilson use his body as a wrecking ball but it's evident he gets in the heads of opposing players who go out of their way to go after Wilson. Wilson is one of those guys that you love if he's on your team but if he's not on your team you absolutely hate him. He's like the Capitals version of (a less dirty) Matt Cooke but he actually has skill on the offensive side. Wilson threatens to score on you, hit you, fight you or bait you into a penalty. Once he gets rolling, it gets the other guys excited and you can see it when guys like TJ Oshie and Brooks Orpik follow his lead and enforce their will on the opponent. The physicality of this Caps team has been unparalleled to past playoff teams.

Reason 3 - The Missing Element

It seems like every championship team has one or more role players that step up for huge roles in big moments. This postseason, that guy has been Devante Smith-Pelly for the Caps. He had 7 goals in 75 regular season games and he now has 6 goals in 23 playoff games. 2 of which have come in the past 2 wins for the Capitals. Guys like Lars Eller and Brett Connolly have also been strong pieces in this run with 6 goals each as well. Every team has star players on their first 2 lines but the players on the bottom 2 lines are the real difference makers in a run to the Stanley Cup.

The Capitals need just one more win to make it party central in DC. Let's just hope they can keep riding these three reasons for their success.

Follow @AlexW1057