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“Only one team can win, and there are 29 teams every year that are disappointed,” he said. “Sure, it’s disappointing when you lose, but you come right back at it and put another good team on the ice and cross your fingers and hope it works.”

Winning has been there by so many metrics — regular-season success as evidenced by the best record in the league two seasons ago, sellout crowds and a season-ticket-holder group growing by the year — but what Boudreau called “the ultimate win” hasn’t been there.

External expectations are high on this club to win now. The Hockey News made the Capitals its pick to capture the Stanley Cup after all these built-up expectations. But the way Mr. McPhee has positioned this team, with stars locked up to long-term deals and prospects pouring through the pipeline like liquid gold, he doesn’t see a limited “window” to get a championship.

“If you keep putting good teams on the ice, one of these years you’ll break through and win something, he said. “But I think managing to win in a certain window means that window’s going to close, and you have to start all over again. And we’re not interested in doing that.”

From those who saw the same vision as Mr. McPhee did seven years ago, this is finally the chance to make good on all of it.

“They’ve been true to their word,” Laich said. “Now it’s time for us to reward them.”