A Cup for the Capitals?

It’s not unrealistic to think this is the season Washington wins it all

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Brouwer talked about not trying to be the captain in Washington. That job is already filled, as Ovechkin goes into just his second full season with the “C” on his chest.

Increased maturity has been a noticeable part of Ovechkin since he returned to the area in August. Questions about him being out of shape were quickly extinguished as the highest-paid player showed off some renewed commitment in on-ice drills and sprints.

And he’s approaching this season as captain differently, willing to sacrifice some offensive firepower for team success.

“It doesn’t matter - personal stats is personal stats. Everybody forget I was 65-goal scorer a couple years ago and everybody talking about Boston or Chicago because they were Stanley Cup champions,” Ovechkin said. “I think for this team right now it’s most important thing is just raise the Cup and bring it home like everybody wants in all organizations.”

Like the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby before him, Ovechkin was made captain in addition to already being the face of the franchise.

“Unlike the traditional Scott Stevens/Mark Messier types, now you have [the trend] that the best player winds up being the captain,” Emrick said. “Only the guys in the room can tell you is he the best leader?”

The Caps certainly hope Ovechkin can take preseason progress and turn it into results next spring, because that question will go a long way toward determining whether the Russian left wing will be lifting the Stanley Cup over his head.

The right ingredients

It takes something special to win a Stanley Cup, something that’s hard to define. Obviously talent is a major part, and having great or at least very good goaltending is essential.

But plenty of teams, like last year’s Caps, put that mix together and came up short.

“I think the word ‘will’ is the most important. You have to have all 22 guys or at least the key players they have to have the will to win,” said Blackhawks defenseman Sean O’Donnell, who won the Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. “Playing in the league is great, making a lot of money is great, but guys have to feel like their careers aren’t complete until they win one.”

Only two players in the Caps’ locker room - Knuble (Red Wings, 1998) and Brouwer (Blackhawks, 2010) - own Stanley Cup rings. Plenty have won at the AHL level, as Boudreau did with the Hershey Bears. But it’s just not the same.

Halpern knows the pain of losing in the playoffs perhaps more than anyone, having never been on a team that won a playoff series.

“If you have any sort of weakness, it gets exploited in the playoffs,” he said. “You can cover it up sometimes with goaltender or speciality times, but things definitely surface in the playoffs.”

The Caps know that feeling all too well, and yet there’s an optimism that this could be the chance.

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