- - Thursday, June 7, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

You know that scrapbook inside your head where you keep the most important moments in your life?

You know, the day you got married, or maybe the day your got divorced. The day your first child was born, or maybe the day they finally moved out of the house.

You know the place in your mind where you go when you want to smile, when you want to tap into that moment that felt so good?

Washington sports fans, make room for June 7, 2018 — the night the Washington Capitals won their first Stanley Cup and brought the first championship to Washington in 26 years.

Perhaps it was appropriate that they did it in Vegas, the land of losers and long shots.

The Washington Capitals have been both of those — losers and long shots — but they finally held a winning hand in a 4-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knight to win the coveted Stanley Cup in five games, taking out the Golden Knights in four straight after losing a strange game one in the desert.

You’ll want to remember forever the game-winning third-period goal by Lars Eller. You’ll want to remember the reactions by Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the bench as the seconds ticked away — the dynamic duo who have suffered together for more than a decade with one playoff failure after another — like you have.

Suffer no more. You are now a championship city. Like the players, they can never take that away from you.

That Braden Holtby jersey you’ve been wearing for the last six years? The Jay Beagle jersey? They’re a little brighter, a little bolder now.

They have the look of a winner.

The Capitals victory touches all the senses, but maybe especially taste, the taste that Capitals fans have had deep in their guts after one disappointment after another.

Longtime fans could still taste the first playoff failure in 1985, blowing a 2-0 lead to the New York Islanders and losing three straight — the first team to lose a five-game series after taking a 2-0 lead.

There were so many moments that tasted sour after that — the famous Easter Sunday seventh game in 1987, the six-hour, 18 minute, four-overtime loss to the Islanders.

The numerous blown 3-1 leads against the hated Pittsburgh Penguins and other teams that kept plunging the knife in your heart.

Don’t lose those moments in your mental scrapbook — they make the moment of Stanley Cup success you actually lived to see Thursday night that much sweeter.

And for those who perhaps just arrived a few years ago, or even this season —climb on board the victory celebration, the more the merrier.

That was clear throughout the Washington area Thursday night — crowds of fans, from the long-time Capitals loyalists to the newcomers “Rocking the Red,” coming together in record numbers, from National Harbor to Arlington, watching history unfold.

It’s a new age in Washington sports, and that was never more evident than the scene inside and outside the Capital One Arena, where fans inside the building filled it up to watch Game 5 together, and the streets downtown were filled with thousands more watching on giant video screens.

It was a special moment, and everyone wanted to share it with each other.

And maybe you were sitting at home watching with your family, like you have so many times before — except this time you had the chance to hug your family or friends with you in a moment of joy that perhaps, as a Capitals fan since the inception of the team in 1974, you thought you may never have.

Whatever your story, you were part of the story that the Capitals carved on the ice this postseason, from coming back from being down 2-0 in the first round against Columbus, to finally getting past the perennial roadblock to glory, the Pittsburgh Penguins, to the seven-game series win over Tampa, and now, after five games against the Western Conference champion Vegas Golden Knights, the Cup.   

Ovechkin, Backstrom, Holtby, Eller, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Devonte Smith-Pelly, John Carlson, Tom Wilson, their teammates, coach Barry Trotz — they were the ones who built the momentum that led to Thursday night’s championship moment. They will always have a special place in that scrapbook in your mind.

But save some room for yourself in their as well. Capitals fans built a wall of support around their team that was visible everywhere you went around Washington Thursday night.

It’s your Cup, too.

Thom Loverro’s “Cigars & Curveballs” is available Wednesdays on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.


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