Washington Capitals enjoying Eastern Conference Final for first time in 20 years


It may be hard to believe, but the Washington Capitals are competing in their first Eastern Conference Final in the past 20 years and have made the final four for just the third time in franchise history. Yes, two entire decades have passed by since their last appearance back in 1998. One of the main reasons Washington hasn't reached the semifinals lately has been because they're usually ousted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first or second round, losing nine of 10 previous series against them. They've also been ousted in game seven on four occasions in the second round in the past 10 years.

However, they turned the table on the defending Stanley Cup champions this year by knocking them out of the postseason in six games. The Capitals definitely won't take anything for granted right now, but their chances of reaching the Stanley Cup Final also look pretty good. They hold a 2-0 lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final with both wins coming on the road and they now return home for games three and four. Most fans have been surprised at the team's lack of success in the postseason over the years since the club has been consistently strong during the regular season. It also boasts one of the greatest players in NHL history in Alexander Ovechkin.

The seven-time-Rocket Richard Trophy winner as the league's top goalscorer hasn't had any luck at all in the playoffs until now. Ovechkin, who has never made it past the second round, has produced 10 goals and nine assists in 14 postseason outings this year and is a plus-5. He's been getting support from  Evgeny Kuznetsov (8 goals, 11 assists) Nicklas Backstrom (3 goals, 10 assists), Lars Eller (5 goals, 6 assists) T.J. Oshie (5 goals, 5 assists), Tom Wilson (3 goals, 6 assists) and defenceman John Carlson (3 goals, 10 assists). Unfortunately for the Caps, Backstrom has missed two games and is currently injured.

Things looked dire for Washington early in the postseason as they lost the first two games of the opening round to the Columbus Blue Jackets at home. They were then hanging on by their fingernails in game three, but managed to stay alive by winning in overtime. They then won the next three in a row to reach the Penguins and the second round. In addition, head coach Barry Trotz decided to go with veteran Braden Holtby in net in game three against Columbus after starting Philipp Grubauer in the first two contests and he's been between the pipes ever since. Holtby leads the playoffs with 10 wins with a 2.04 goals-against average and a 92.6 save percentage

The Capitals have scored an average of 3.79 goals per game during the playoffs to lead the NHL with the league average being 2.71 goals per contest. When it comes to special teams, their power play is ranked number two at 32.6% with the league average being 21.2% while their penalty killing is ranked just ninth at 76% with the average being 76.9%. The last time the Capitals made it to the third round of the playoffs they went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, only to be swept by the Detroit Red Wings in four games. Their fans are hoping this year's team can hoist the cup for the first time ever in franchise history.