2018 NHL Stanley Cup Finals Preview
We’ve finally reached the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals. Pitting an expansion team of destiny versus the team that always choked and could never recently get past the second round. The one thing about hockey is it’s always unique and unexpected even when the last two teams won their divisions.
P1 Vegas Golden Knights vs M1 Washington Capitals
Season Series: 2-0 Golden Knights
Playoff Series History: None
What We Learned: The Golden Knights can’t be stopped and the Capitals really are a different team.
Stars to Watch: Alex Ovechkin has played his best playoffs ever. Ovechkin has 22 points in 19 games so far. Surprisingly, he is not the Capitals leading scorer. Evgeny Kuznetsov is with 24 points in 19 games. But I don’t recall many memorable Kuznetsov points. I do recall most of Ovechkin’s though. Nicklas Backstrom still has his hand injury but he should play all series long, although not at full strength. T.J. Oshie has played well but he needs to do more. Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith and William Karlsson are still leading the balanced Golden Knights attack. I’ve been impressed with Nate Schmidt defensively. He’ll be kept busy going against the Capitals top line.
X-Factor: Home ice will be one of the keys to this series. The Golden Knights have only one loss at home this playoffs and that was in double overtime. The Capitals have become quite a good playoff road team though. They took three of four in Tampa. Game one will set the tone of the series. Special teams will be another key. The Capitals boast one of the best powerplays and Ovechkin has made a home camping out at the top of the circle. The Golden Knights will need to stay out of the penalty box.
Goalie Problem: To say Marc-Andre Fleury is in a zone would be an understatement. Fleury has four shutouts and still boasts a .947 SV%. He might not have had much past success against Ovechkin but I really like his chances of staying hot. The Capitals seem to run into a lot of hot goalies during their playoff runs and they will need to solve this one. Braden Holtby has battled back from many things this season and postseason and played well. Having said that he still looks shaky at times. Additionally, if you fake a fake shot, you can easily score a goal on him. Considering the Golden Knights tend to have a lot of odd man rushes, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did that a few times.
Fun Fact: The Vegas Knights general manager George McPhee was also the Capitals general manager. Twenty years ago was the last time the Capitals were in the Stanley Cup. They were swept by the Red Wings.
Prediction: After their comeback win against the Blue Jackets, I remarked how the Capitals felt like a different team. I didn’t pick them to beat the Penguins or the Lightning but I’m not surprised they did. They continued to prove they were a different team each round. Having said that if they win here, I will be surprised. The Vegas Golden Knights just seem like a better and closer team. More importantly, they seem like a team of destiny. The series will be close and low scoring but Golden Knights in 5.