LAS VEGAS — There could be a party Thursday night in Las Vegas that the city has never seen. Should the Washington Capitals win Game 5 at T-Mobile Arena, they will have closed out the 2018 Stanley Cup Final and won their first ever championship, setting off celebrations in Sin City and back home in D.C.
But if you’re the Capitals, you aren’t thinking that far ahead. At least, you’re trying very hard not to think that far ahead as one more victory stands in the way of you and having your name engraved on the Cup.
“It’s a dream come true, but I have to worry about the steps to get me there and not the end result,” said defenseman John Carlson. “It’s easy to let your mind stray a little bit. That’s all natural, but there’s enough on my plate ahead of me that my focus needs to be on in order to enjoy that.”
The sports cliche is that the fourth win in a series is the hardest to earn. The Capitals will face that prospect in Game 5 against a Vegas Golden Knights team that has played strong at home. With their season on the line and no more losses to spare, Vegas will look to give Washington their best game of the series Thursday night.
“You work so hard to get to this point and you want to make it happen,” said Capitals head coach Barry Trotz. “We talked about just having make sure that we’ve got focus on one game. There’s a very proud team on the other side. They’re well coached, they got a lot of pride they’re going to come with their best game. We’re not going to beat them with anything less than our best game. It’s not going to be three-quarters of our roster. It’s going to be everybody. And we’re going to have to match their work ethic we’re going to have to match the detail.
“I can’t tell what’s going to happen [Thursday], but I can tell you you’re going to need your best game if you want to get this done.”
After dropping Game 1, the Capitals have won the last three games and are on the cusp of franchise history. They also have history on their side in that only one NHL team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Cup Final and won, and it hasn’t happened for 76 years.
The Capitals will prepare for a potentially historic night in the same way they have for the previous 105 games this season. Try and get a normal night’s sleep, have your usual breakfast, visualize about that night’s game, try and get in a pre-game nap if you can and go to work and do your business.
Easier said than done, of course. As much as they want to make it such, it won’t be a regular game Thursday night and the Capitals understand that.
“To be honest, I think most of us have never been in this position. For me personally, I don’t try to think about it too much and just try focusing on different things,” said Alex Ovechkin. “But it’s hard.”