Washington Capitals Make It To Stanley Cup Final For First Time In 20 Years NPR's Mary Louise Kelly talks with radio play-by-play announcer John Walton as the Washington Capitals prepare for the start of the Stanley Cup.
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Washington Capitals Make It To Stanley Cup Final For First Time In 20 Years

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Washington Capitals Make It To Stanley Cup Final For First Time In 20 Years

Washington Capitals Make It To Stanley Cup Final For First Time In 20 Years

Washington Capitals Make It To Stanley Cup Final For First Time In 20 Years

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/615010191/615010192" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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NPR's Mary Louise Kelly talks with radio play-by-play announcer John Walton as the Washington Capitals prepare for the start of the Stanley Cup.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

If you are a Vegas Golden Knights fan, you are already playing with house money. The team has made history by making the Stanley Cup final in its first year of existence. Vegas fans would be forgiven if they think this is how it goes every year. Fans of the Washington Capitals know better.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: The Montreal Canadiens stun the Washington Capitals.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: The Lightning have swept the Capitals.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #3: Final score in the game, six to two, Penguins. They have won seven out of eight playoff series from the Washington Capitals.

KELLY: We don't have time to list all of the years that the Capitals have had a commanding lead in the playoffs only to collapse in heartbreaking fashion. That has happened 10 times since 1985. This year might finally be different. The Capitals are in the final for the first time in 20 years. They will be facing the Golden Knights, and tonight is Game One in Las Vegas. John Walton, the play-by-play announcer for the Capitals, is there. John Walton, welcome.

JOHN WALTON: Hey, Mary Louise. Good to be with you.

KELLY: Good to have you with us. So what's the vibe like there in Vegas? Are you nervous?

WALTON: The vibe is one of anticipation. I think it is one of celebration on some level. It's always a celebration in Vegas anyway. To have the Stanley Cup final in the midst of all of this is one of the strangest things I think I've ever seen, but it's also a whole lot of fun.

KELLY: Well, what changed for the Capitals this year? How did they finally break through?

WALTON: I think it was born out of failure in past seasons. You've had years where the Caps were the best team in the league in the regular season, and they still couldn't get by the second round. They still couldn't get by the Pittsburgh Penguins. I think that feeling hung with them. And they slowly but surely built to this point by believing in themselves, even when - I think - a lot of teams or a lot of people around the league and pundits around the hockey world thought that Washington's window had passed. And here they are.

KELLY: Now, of course, you will know the greatest fear for Caps fans is that the final act of torture will be that they have made it all the way to the Stanley Cup, and they're going to lose in Game Seven to the upstart Golden Knights.

WALTON: Well, I suppose that's a fear. The problem on the other side - it's not really a problem, but just amazing that it worked this way - George McPhee was the general manager of the Capitals from 1998, when they went to the final the last time, until 2014. He runs the Golden Knights as their general manager. And now Brian MacLellan, who is the Caps GM, they went to school together. They played in college together at Bowling Green in Ohio. And now they're going head to head. They've known each other (laughter) since they were in grade school. You know, there is some symmetry that maybe works in the Caps' favor. Maybe it doesn't. But we'll find out as the series unfolds.

KELLY: Now, you've been calling Caps games for how long now?

WALTON: This would be my seventh year finishing up right now.

KELLY: Seventh year. And you've never gotten to call a Stanley Cup game.

WALTON: It is my first. I was privileged enough to call the Olympics for NBC back in February. If you would have told me that there was going to be a Stanley Cup final in the same calendar year for the Caps, I would have been overjoyed at that news even six months ago. But it's been a fun 2018.

KELLY: You doing anything special to get ready for tonight?

WALTON: You know, you just call the game as it comes to you. I've loved the game since I was a kid in Minnesota. And to be able to have the chance to do this has been a dream of mine for a lifetime. To get a chance to do it in Las Vegas seems incredibly surreal. But it's something I've wanted a long time. I'm glad I'll get to do it tonight.

KELLY: All right. That is John Walton, the Washington Capitals' play-by-play announcer, talking about Game One tonight of the Stanley Cup. John Walton, thanks so much.

WALTON: Mary Louise, thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF DIMITRI VEGAS AND MARTIN GARRIX AND LIKE MIKE'S "TREMOR (SENSATION 2014 ANTHEM)")

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