WASHINGTON – Stanley Cup champions just want to have fun.
They’re doing so right now.
The Washington Capitals took the Stanley Cup through the MGM Grand and to a dance club on the Las Vegas Strip. They took it to a popular bar not far from their suburban practice facility. Then they took it to Nationals Park, where they kept hoisting it from a suite to the roars of the crowd.
Hockey decisions, their individual Cup days and change lie ahead. This weekend is for celebrating.
“We’re getting days with the Cup right now,” defenseman John Carlson said. “We got some time to worry about the other stuff.”
From Las Vegas to Washington and with more than a few drinks in between, the Capitals are acting as if they haven’t been here before – because they haven’t. They’re the first new Cup champion since the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and finally are atop the NHL after nine early playoff exits.
Ovechkin is taking every chance he can get to lift the Cup, whether it was coming off the plane with Nicklas Backstrom on Friday or on the field Saturday before and after his two tries at a ceremonial first pitch.
“I just Cup holder right now,” Ovechkin said.
Chugging beers during a TV interview, Capitals players broke out into an impromptu rendition of Queen’s “We Are The Champions” and swayed together when it was played during the seventh-inning stretch. The first Cup is bringing out the deepest emotions for the superstar captain and his teammates and coaches.
“I still can’t believe it,” Ovechkin said. “I think no one still can believe like we did and we are right now Stanley Cup champions. But it’s great, I think. Something you will never forget.”
Just seeing the Cup in person was a thrill for the Nationals’ Max Scherzer and Ryan Zimmerman, who dressed up in full hockey gear to pump up fans before Game 4 of the Cup Final. They got a sneak peek that night, and the trophy was in their clubhouse Saturday on its annual whirlwind tour that includes the District of Columbia for the first time.
“It’s easily the best trophy in all of sports, just the stories and how it’s the same Cup every year,” Zimmerman said. “I’m big into that history and it’s awesome how they’ve kind of maintained that throughout the years.”
The start of the next quest for the Cup begins in less than three months, and the coming days and weeks will bring clarity on the futures of Carlson, coach Barry Trotz and Washington’s other free agents. On Saturday, the 55-year-old Trotz brushed aside any conversation about a new contract.
“I’m not in any state to talk,” Trotz said. “I always talked about having really good clarity and calm and all that. I don’t have a lot of clarity right now. That’s self-inflicted.”
Scherzer tweeted the day after the Capitals’ Cup clincher, “Thank God I don’t have pitch today because last night was nuts.” Scherzer stayed up late Thursday watching the festivities from Washington.
“Yeah and some celebration and stuff,” Scherzer said. “I had a good time.”
No one’s going to take issue with the Capitals having a good time after they became just the second team in NHL history to win the Cup after trailing in all four playoff series.
Players aren’t doing much in the way of recalling moments during their run, but Backstrom said immediately after winning, it hit him how important Lars Eller’s double-overtime goal was in Game 3 of the first round to keep the Capitals from going down 3-0.
That feels like forever ago, and the Capitals are only now decompressing – without a whole lot of sleep.
“Not much,” Carlson said. “A couple naps.”
“You’re on adrenaline for two months,” Trotz added. “An adrenaline rush after the game, then you’re up for the next 36 hours. You get to do something great like this and meet the Nats and bring the Cup here, and meet some of their players and all that, so, you realize it, but I think it’s not going to really sink in until it actually stops a little bit.”
It’s not going to stop until at least Tuesday, when the Capitals parade the Cup down Constitution Avenue and are feted at a rally on the National Mall.
“It’s going to be amazing,” Backstrom said. “Not just for us, (but) for the city of Washington I think that has waited a long time for this. It’s going to be great to share that with them.”
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