To start for those that are here just because Vegas has made the Cup during their first year and has been following the Golden Knights narrative, one of the most exciting stories in sports, welcome! For those that are familiar with the NHL and these teams, sorry but the Golden Knights have drawn a ton of traffic and eyes to the NHL so there are some new fans waiting to know the logistics of these teams.
The Golden Knights posted a 51-24-7, 109 points, a top the Pacific division and being crowned the Western Conference champs while posting a 12-3 record in the playoffs thus far. The Capitals posted a 49-26-7, 105 points, a top the Metropolitan division, winning the Eastern Conference championship and posting a 12-7 this playoff run.
First Stanley Cup appearance
To start this is the first Stanley Cup in 11 years where two teams are in pursuit of their first ever Stanley Cup. One team has waited 20 years for this, another has waited 11 months. Vegas was officially welcomed to the NHL last off-season before the NHL draft and then the expansion draft began and their team emerged! The Capitals have been around since 1974, appearing in their last Stanley Cup final and their only one in 1997-98 where they got swept by the Detroit Red Wings. The Golden Knights well, they have been around not even a year yet, and have made the Stanley Cup so that is what you need to know in regards to them.
The way the Golden Knights team came about though? We have seen this a few times over the last 20 years, but they are what one would call and expansion team and the last expansion team(s) the NHL welcomed were the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild in 2000. Expect this time around it was done much different, the Golden Knights picked from all other 30 NHL teams based on what the other teams had protected and not protected. From there they chose their roster. The spin to it though a lot of players got picked due to George McPhee the Vegas GM working out deals with teams to receive a player and a pick so Vegas would not select a “good” player from their rosters. Well with that Vegas was able to choose 35 players from these rosters as well as additional draft picks.
Key players for Vegas
The big names that come out of Vegas this year, well if you have not been watching the most obvious one. Marc Andre Fleury, the goaltender and possible Conn Smythe winner, Jonathan Marchessault Vegas’s pick from Florida as well as Riley Smith who came from Florida in a deal. William Karlsson the forward Vegas selected from Columbus, which they also revived 2 picks from this selection. As well as James Neal the 30-goal scorer from Nashville. Colin Miller the selection from Boston, Deryk Engelland from Calgary. The other players were also selected but these players have made a large impact on the Vegas roster this season and have helped propel this Vegas story further and further each month. William Karlsson tallied 25 points last season to an astonishing 78 this season, Marchessault tallied 75 compared to his 51 points last season, Colin Miller scored 41 points compared to 13 last season, Riley Smith scored 60 points compared to his 37 last season. It is safe to say that Vegas has gave these players a new life of confidence and have made them into some of the best players in the league right now.
Key players for Washington
The Capitals, the players you need to keep an eye for these guys are Alex Ovechkin, the 7-time Rocket trophy winner, Hall of fame caliber player tallying 1,002 points in his career and also a possible Conn-Smythe candidate this playoffs. Ovechkin draws the most attention to fans due to his off-ice personality and on-ice goal scoring and screaming. Ovi has been in the league for 13 years now reaching his first Stanley Cup. Braden Holtby the one-time Vezina trophy and William M. Jennings trophy winner, and back bone to this Capitals defensive end has been on quite the run as of late. Coming into the playoffs and essentially this whole year as not a starter the 28-year-old, 8-time veteran makes his first appearance as well. Nicolas Backstrom who has been battling an injury, but when in the line up has certainly helped Washington in key situations, as he has tallied 519 assists in 799 career regular season games, Backstrom has been a key piece to this Capitals roster for several years now. The new and emerging power forward Evgeny Kuznestov, Ovechkin’s Russian teammate and line mate has shattered some records this year being the youngest player to score 24 points in a playoff run since Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in 2010. Kuznetsov had a career year this season and has emerged as a threat to all defenseman with his recent play this season and last season.
John Carlson the glue to this back end and a player who has put his name on the board with some of the best defenseman in the game today. Carlson has tallied 16 points in 19 games along with 10 power play points. Carlson is a player you will not miss especially due to his 6’3 stature. Finally and not last but for now at least, TJ Oshie the player they acquired from St. Louis in 2014-15 and who they recently just signed to a lucrative deal has been a key piece in their top six, holding the second line together and being a great, two-way forward. Oshie has tallied 15 points in 19 games this playoff run. Now, obviously they’re plenty more to name but these players are the guys you will hear most about and probably see the most of!
This Stanley Cup is not like most, these two teams have never been, while they have some players on their roster that have experienced the Stanley Cup atmosphere, not many players on either roster know what it is like to play in a Stanley Cup game. The intriguing part about this series is that current General Manager George McPhee of Vegas was the old GM of Washington before he came over to Vegas. Therefore essentially McPhee has built both these teams and win or lose, he still wins right? Marc Andre-Fleury will be going for his fourth Stanley Cup, appearing in his 3rd straight, Nate Schmidt plays against his old team, Washington. James Neal appears in back to back Stanley Cups. The story lines are not hard to find in this series, but for now, I hope this is gave you a better understanding of the teams, enjoy!
Stanley Cup Playoff Schedule
Well heading into the Stanley Cup, I hope if you are new you have all the information you need! The schedule will look like…
Monday May 28: Capitals @ Vegas
Wednesday May 30: Capitals @ Vegas
Saturday June 2: Vegas @ Capitals
Monday June 4: Vegas @ Capitals
Thursday June 7: Capitals @ Vegas
Sunday June 10: Vegas @ Capitals
Wednesday June 13: Capitals @ Vegas