While this year was a forgettable one, especially for Washington Capitals fans, there were still a few memorable moments from the 2019-20 season. With 2020 winding down and the 2020-21 season for the Capitals just 19 days away, NoVa Caps takes a look at the best of last season and presents our 6th annual “Capy” awards for the Capitals.
Best Goal (0:43-1:15)
After the Capitals cut the New York Islanders’ lead to 4-2 just minutes earlier in the third period, captain Alex Ovechkin roared into the offensive zone, dangled around defenseman Scott Mayfield, and banked the puck off of defenseman Ryan Pulock’s skate and into the net while falling to make it 4-3. He also passed Mario Lemieux with his 691st career goal on the play.
After six tries at becoming the eighth player in NHL history to hit the 700 career goal mark, Ovechkin drilled a one-timer high glove on New Jersey Devils goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood after center Evgeny Kuznetsov fed him from behind the net to reach the milestone to tie this game at two 4:50 into the third.
After getting a pass from Kuznetsov down low, forward Richard Panik shifted his body to get around Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Gabriel Carlsson, put the puck between his legs, and got it to forward Carl Hagelin across the crease to set up Hagelin’s first goal of the season and the tying goal.
After hunting then-Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt down for the puck and lost and Schmidt got rid of the puck, Ovechkin launched his former teammate into his own bench.
After Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin fed forward Mattias Janmark across the ice, goaltender Braden Holtby sprawled across the crease to deny him with the blocker to keep the game tied at one.
Best Tic-Tac-Toe Goal
After a four-on-one breakout for the Capitals, forward Brendan Leipsic fed center Travis Boyd across the ice. Boyd then laid the puck on a platter for forward Chandler Stephenson who was all alone in front of Buffalo Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark and got him out of the net by roofing it with a backhand shot.
Best Off-Ice Moment
The Capitals released a Christmas card last year with the team dog, Captain, lip sinking Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas with some of the players singing along and playing instruments.
Best Red Carpet Debut
After the Capitals announced the adoption of Captain, a service dog, Ovechkin had the puppy join him on the team’s annual “Rock The Red Carpet” prior to their home opener.
Five days after being acquired from the San Jose Sharks, defenseman Brenden Dillon appeared to fit right in as he went after Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin after the Malkin was involved in a scramble in front of Holtby. Dillon continuously went after him and threw a couple of nice punches.
Best Zamboni Ride
The 2019 World Series Champion Washington Nationals came to Capital One Arena for the Capitals’ game against the Calgary Flames on November 3, 2019, and had a lot of fun that night. They even went on the Zamboni during one of the intermissions and waved their jerseys and showed off the championship trophy to the crowd.
Best Pregame Speech
Prior to that game, longtime Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman read off the Capitals’ starting lineup and delivered a pregame speech.
Best Celebration (1:58)
After forward Jakub Vrana notched the first hat-trick of his NHL career vs. the Flames, he showed his excitement, going into the boards and showed the fans that they should throw the hats.
Best Goal Song
T.J. Oshie – “Country Roads” by John Denver
The San Jose Sharks appeared to send the Capitals to their fourth loss in six games with an empty netter with one minute left before Vrana spun and fired a loose puck past goaltender Martin Jones 13 seconds later, and Oshie struck from the right dot after getting a pass by Kuznetsov from the wall to force extra time. 2:01 into overtime, center Lars Eller finished Carlson’s cross-ice pass on a two-on-0ne to cap the comeback after some big stops by Holtby to keep the Capitals in it. Holtby made 25 saves in the victory, where the Capitals became the first team in 15 years to overcome a multi-goal deficit in the final minute of regulation to win and only the ninth in NHL history.
Best Stanley Cup Playoff Facial Hair
After the Capitals fell three games behind in their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the New York Islanders, the three Russian forwards (Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, and Ilya Kovalchuk) turned their playoff beards into playoff goatees with Ovechkin’s arguably looking the best.
Best Social Media Moment
Ovechkin teaches his son, Sergei, to scoop and juggle the puck at home after he arrives home from the NHL bubble in Toronto.
Best Individual Performance
The Los Angeles Kings would take the lead with 8:27 left in regulation when they came to Washington for the lone time this season. After not recording a shot on goal in the first 53:50 of the game, Ovechkin found some open ice and buried Oshie’s feed from the goal line to tie it. Just 1:10 later, Carlson found Ovechkin all alone at the blue line, and Ovechkin followed up his own rebound after goaltender Jonathan Quick failed to cover his initial attempt. Ovechkin would finish off the first natural hat-trick of his career with an empty-net goal from the defensive zone. The goal pulled him within two of 700 in his career.
Rookie Of The Year
In his first NHL season, the 23-year-old Ilya Samsonov shined by going 16-6-2 with a .913 save percentage, a 2.55 goals-against average, and one shutout. He started the season by going 15-2-1 with a .927 save percentage and a 2.06 goals-against average and challenged Holtby for the No. 1 job. Samsonov’s best performance arguably came on January 13 vs. the Carolina Hurricanes where he stopped 23 shots in a 2-0 shutout win.
Breakout Player Of The Year
After setting career-highs with 24 goals and 47 points in 82 games during the 2018-19 season, forward Jakub Vrana topped that with 25 goals and 52 points in only 69 games this season. He was on pace to hit the 30-goal plateau in a full 82-game season. Vrana’s best performance of the season came against the Flames and he also went on a nine-game point streak from January 3 to January 27 where he recorded eight goals and 11 points.
Best Charitable Cause
Forward Garnet Hathaway launched Hath’s Heroes in 2019 to give back to first responders. As part of Hath’s Heroes, Hathaway provides tickets to select Capitals games to local first responders. Postgame, Hathaway meets the ticket recipients and gives them a tour of the Capitals locker room. In addition to donating tickets, Hathaway visits local fire stations throughout the season and spends time with first responders. Hathaway’s great-grandfather, Garnet Mcelroy, was a firefighter in Winnipeg, and his experiences inspired Hathaway to launch Hath’s Heroes.
Donations help fund programming and essentials that assist first responders in the D.C. region.
Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway and his wife Lindsay, through MSE Foundation, have launched a Hath’s Heroes fundraiser. Proceeds will be used to fund future Hath’s Heroes initiatives and programming for first responders in the Washington, D.C., region.
In addition to select items available for auction, fans can donate pre-determined amounts to the fundraiser, starting at $10. Fans can also purchase an autographed Hathaway photo for $25. Click here to support.
By Harrison Brown