Springtime in Washington DC usually brings two things — the brilliant bloom of cherry blossoms and impending doom for the local hockey team.

Washington Capitals
Alexander Ovechkin has the Washington Capitals two wins away from the Stanley Cup Finals. (Source: The Denver Post)

This year, Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are writing a new script. The Russian superstar hasn’t been able to get his team past the second round of the playoffs since arriving in DC in 2005. In fact, the Capitals one and only trip to the Cup finals came 20 years ago, in 1998.

Previously, the Caps were never able to get past arch-nemesis Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. But with that dragon finally slayed last week, with the DC beating Pittsburgh in six games in the second round, now the Capitals are looking like the team to beat.

Not Your Father’s Capitals

The Lightning were the best regular season team in the Eastern Conference and also sported the second-best home record. However, the lathered-up Lightning faithful did nothing to phase the Capitals, who now move to 7-1 on the road and head back to Washington with a 2-0 series stranglehold. The Capitals were were clearly the better team in both games, winning 4-2 on Friday and crushing the Bolts 6-2 on Sunday night.

It was looking like it would be more of the same from the perennially-underachieving Capitals after they fell behind 2-0 in their first-round series against Columbus. Since then, they’ve been on a roll, dispatching the Penguins and putting the top team in the East on the ropes.

These new Capitals are looking confident and poised, bearing little resemblance to the teams of yesteryear. Coach Barry Trotz says they hope to provide a spark for the rest of the city’s franchises, which haven’t brought home a championship in 26 years, according to the Washington Post.

“This is a new era for basketball and hockey, and the baseball team, and we’re getting the football team straightened away. It’s going to be contagious. I’m telling you. It’ll affect all the sports. Because we’re looking to be one of those cities where all our sports teams are competing against each other, competing for championships, and that’s what we want to do.” – Barry Trotz

Capping Cup Contenders

There is no doubt that the Capitals are officially contenders now, as Ladbrokes has installed them as the favorites to lift the Cup as of this morning. Washington is paying 8/5 to win it all, just ahead of the Winnipeg Jets at 7/4. The Vegas Golden Knights are paying 21/5.

The Lightning entered the series as the favorites to move on to the Stanley Cup finals, but they now face long odds to advance. Heading into the nation’s capital down 2-0, Tampa Bay is paying 13/5 to take four of the next five games and win the series. Unsurprisingly, they also now face the longest odds in the league at winning the Cup at 6/1.

The Capitals, meanwhile, are big favorites to advance to the finals at odds of 3/10.

Game 3 of the series is set for Tuesday night, and Washington is a slight favorite in that contest at 4/5, while the Bolts are paying 11/10 to make it a 2-1 series.