Capitals at Golden Knights Game 1 Preview
The Vegas Golden Knights started their inaugural season looking to be competitive and could end it with a championship as they host the Washington Capitals on Monday night for Game 1 of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup finals. The Golden Knights needed only 15 games to dispatch Los Angeles, San Jose and Winnipeg in the Western Conference playoffs to give themselves seven days off before facing the Alex Ovechkin-led Capitals.
Veteran goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who has a .947 save percentage in the playoffs, leads the way for Vegas while Jonathan Marchessault boasts eight goals to along with 18 points in the postseason and told NHL.com: “We’re on a mission. Nobody is going to stand in front of us.” Washington, which dropped both meetings with the Golden Knights in the regular season, is the last obstacle as the Capitals make their first appearance in the finals since 1998 while seeking their first Cup after losing in the second round of the playoffs as the Presidents’ Trophy winners in 2016 and 2017. Washington lost the first two games of the playoffs at home before beating Columbus in six contests, eliminated its nemesis Pittsburgh and won at Tampa Bay in Game 7 on Wednesday to reach the finals in the 13th season for seven-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner Ovechkin (607 goals). “I think our group here really understands what it means to be a team and how to win,” Capitals goalie Braden Holtby told reporters. “Maybe in the past we’ve had more skill or been better on paper or whatever. But this team, everyone knows their role and everyone wants to pitch in and everyone is comfortable with each other. I haven’t been on a team like this where, in any situation, we’re confident.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, Sportsnet, TVA
ABOUT THE CAPITALS: Ovechkin boasts career highs of 12 goals and 22 points in the playoffs after scoring the winner in Game 7 on Wednesday and Washington general manager Brian MacLellan told reporters: “This is the most systematic he’s played throughout his career.” The 32-year-old gets plenty of help from fellow Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov, who has a franchise-record 24 playoff points this season and owns at least one in 10 straight contests (six goals). Defenseman Brooks Orpik is the only Washington player with Stanley Cup finals experience and the 37-year-old is having his best career postseason with three assists and an NHL-best, plus-15 rating.
ABOUT THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS: Fleury won three Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh, including the last two seasons, and veteran forward James Neal reached the finals with Nashville in 2017 to give Vegas two players with plenty of knowledge on this big stage. “I think they’re just, with their experience and presence, they stay calm,” Golden Knights center William Karlsson, who has 13 points in the playoffs after scoring 43 goals in the regular season, told reporters. “I don’t really ask them too much. Just having them around has a calming feeling. That’s enough for me.” Forward Reilly Smith is tied for second in the league during the playoffs with 14 assists.
1. The Capitals have converted 28.8 percent of their power-play chances in the playoffs and Vegas has killed off 82.5 percent – both best among the final four teams.
2. Holtby is 12-6-0 in the playoffs with a 2.04 goals-against average and .924 save percentage after posting shutouts in the last two games.
3. This is the first finals in 11 years and the sixth in NHL history to match two teams both going after their first Stanley Cup.