Photo by David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images
The Stanley Cup Final is finally here, and every hockey fan is excited around the world. Coming to the party this year are two franchises that have gone down two different paths.
Beginning out West, the Vegas Golden Knights are in their inaugural season, and have made history by reaching the Stanley Cup Final. In the East, Alex Ovechkin is making his first Stanley Cup Final appearance. It is the first time the Capitals have been to the Final since 1998. Both franchises are chasing their first Stanley Cup. The Stanley Cup Final begins on Monday night. Puck drop is at 8 PM ET on NBC.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) May 24, 2018
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
The NHL’s 31st franchise is making history in its first season. After a lengthy expansion draft process, the Golden Knights have embraced the underdog role for most of the season. There were not many people that thought that the Golden Knights could reach the Stanley Cup playoffs this early. In addition to winning the Pacific Division, the Golden Knights made history by setting a points record for an expansion franchise.
In the postseason, the Golden Knights swept the Kings in round 1, defeated the Sharks in 6 games in round 2, and defeated the Jets in 5 games in the Western Conference Finals.
Leading the way for the Golden Knights is goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury, 33, is a 3-time Stanley Cup Champion, and former Capital Killer with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fleury is right back to his winning ways, and has brought that Cup winning experience to a young Vegas club. Through 15 postseason games, Fleury has 12 wins, a 1.68 goals against average, and .947 save percentage. In addition to his stout goaltending numbers, he has recorded 4 shutouts in the postseason.
Under Head Coach Gerrard Gallant, the Golden Knights play with a lot of pace. They attack in waves with their four lines. Leading the way for the Golden Knights up front is William Karlsson. Karlsson has recorded 6 goals and 13 points in the postseason. He usually skates alongside Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith, and this trio of forwards can take control of any game.
On the blueline, former Capital Nate Schmidt has become a mainstay for the Golden Knights. In addition to Schmidt, they also have a fantastic young blueliner with Shea Theodore.
The Golden Knights are one of the biggest stories in this NHL calendar year. They started from nothing, and now have the chance to win the Stanley Cup. The league’s biggest underdogs are trying to make history, and they are taking a new hockey town by storm. In a city known for gambling and the glitz, Las Vegas has become a new hockey hotbed, and it is all very new and a very real phenomenon.
For the first time in the Alex Ovechkin era, the Capitals have reached the Stanley Cup Final. For many years, Capitals fans have been left hanging, and left hanging too early in the postseason.
The Capitals have finally propelled over the 2nd round playoff hurdle, as they eliminated the Blue Jackets in 6 games in round 1, eliminated the arch-rival Penguins in 6 games in round 2, and the Lightning in 7 games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The road has not been easy for the Capitals, and they have shown a lot of character and determination throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Leading the way for the Capitals is the top forward line. Evgeny Kuznetsov leads the points race, as he has recorded 11 goals and 24 points in 19 games. Alex Ovechkin has recorded 12 goals and 22 points in 19 games. Tom Wilson has been an excellent fit for this trio, as he can open up space for his highly skilled linemates. Wilson has been a physical force all over the ice, and his physicality has put every team on notice.
On the blueline, John Carlson has recorded 3 goals and 16 points in 19 games, which is tops among Capitals defensemen. He has chipped in nicely offensively for the Capitals, and it is something the Capitals will need if they want to perform well in the Stanley Cup Final.
The unsung heroes for the Capitals are the players that do the little things well, and do not get noticed for it. Players like Brooks Orpik, Devante Smith-Pelly, and T.J. Oshie have all sacrificed their bodies with shot blocks and their physical plays on the ice.
In the Capitals net, Braden Holtby has been outstanding, especially in his last two outings against Tampa Bay. With back-to-back shutouts, Holtby’s numbers postseason numbers keep improving. Holtby has recorded 12 wins, a 2.04 goals against average, and .924 save percentage.
The Capitals are clicking at the right time, and are getting contributions from all over the roster. Their secondary scoring and outstanding goaltending has helped propel the club to the position it is in now. The Capitals have unfinished business, but are finally breaking through. For a club that has repeatedly made the playoffs every year, the window to win is now.
— Tarik El-Bashir⌨🎙🏒 (@TarikNBCS) May 24, 2018
By: George Foussekis