The Washington Capitals occupy a large chunk of space on George McPhee’s resume, so he was obviously paying close attention to how Alex Ovechkin and Co. performed in their recent series against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins.
McPhee, now the Vegas Golden Knights GM, built the Capitals into a perennial contender during his 17 years at the helm in Washington and his fingerprints are all over the current iteration of the club. He drafted Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov, among others.
“I was really happy for them. Very proud of them. They deserved better over the years,” said McPhee on Prime Time Sports Wednesday afternoon. “It’s been a good team for a long time. They just couldn’t push through. That was certainly a big relief for the organization.”
The Capitals have been tormented by the Penguins in recent seasons; they were eliminated by Pittsburgh in each of the past two playoffs as well as in 2009. This post-season, though, the narrative changed as Washington toppled their rival in six games to advance to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since the 1997-98 season — McPhee’s first as Caps GM.
“I thought they outplayed Pittsburgh,” he told hosts Bob McCown and John Shannon on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. “I thought they may have outplayed them the last few years. But they didn’t get the puck luck that you need sometimes, but it worked out for them this time. That’s a really, really good hockey club.”
McPhee was fired by the Capitals in April 2014. He’s since found green pastures leading the Golden Knights, who are one of the biggest surprise teams the NHL has ever seen. The expansion club finished first in the Pacific Division, before sweeping the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the playoffs and defeating the San Jose Sharks in six games.
Vegas will play either Winnipeg or Nashville in the Western Conference Final. Those teams will play Game 7 of their second-round matchup on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.