Alex Brandon/Associated Press
The Capitals’ victory in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final brought so many emotions to me, from relief that after so many shortcomings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the team had finally made it to the Stanley Cup Final, to absolute excitement and joy. But when the Capitals take on the Vegas Golden Knights and former defenseman Nate Schmidt, it will be more than just a former player playing the team for me.
Schmidt’s departure from the team last year was a difficult one for me personally, as he is my favorite player and watching the Golden Knights select him in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft hurt, as it does whenever a favorite player leaves a team. A meeting with Schmidt in a Hershey, Pennsylvania hotel in 2015 immediately vaulted him to his status as my favorite player (an encounter I recounted in this farewell piece written last year). Even after a full season in Vegas, it is still odd for me to see him in another team’s sweater, especially knowing he was to play an important role for the Caps had he stayed with the team.
Just got off the phone with Nate Schmidt. His first words: “Whodathunk it? Holy crap.”
— Alex Prewitt (@alex_prewitt) May 24, 2018
While he may not have been able to play that role in D.C., he certainly has done so for Vegas, recording career-highs in goals (five), assists (31), and points (36), while averaging a career-high 22:14 of ice time a night as the Golden Knight’s top defenseman. I have always believed he could play a similar role to former teammate Dmitry Orlov, and he proved that this season in Vegas. In the two regular season contests between the Caps and Golden Knights, Schmidt recorded one assist, a plus-1 rating, and averaged 22:42 of ice time over the two games.
🎥 Schmidt: Who woulda thought?
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) May 24, 2018
While rooting against him will be hard, a Stanley Cup win for the Capitals is all that matters. The Capitals are and will always be my team and while I wish Nate nothing but success in his career, my hunger for a Stanley Cup parade in Washington is far more important. And should the Cup end up going to the Golden Knights, I will be happy for Schmidt. But starting Monday night, I will be cheering in ALLCAPS!
By Michael Fleetwood