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NHL

May 26, 2018

Stanley Cup Cheat Sheet

How they got here: One year ago, the Vegas Golden Knights were getting ready for their expansion draft and looking to build their first team. Now, the Golden Knights are playing for the Stanley Cup. Yes, the expansion Golden Knights are four wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup after not only winning the Pacific Division championship with 109 points, but also posting a terrific 12-3 postseason record by knocking out the Kings, Sharks, and Jets.

In the opening round sweep of Los Angeles, the Golden Knights allowed a total three goals, while all four victories came by one goal apiece. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury pitched a pair of shutouts, including a 1-0 triumph at Staples Center to help Vegas advance to the second round. The Golden Knights needed six games to eliminate San Jose in the semifinals, as Vegas won the final two games after the series was tied at 2-2.

Vegas hit the road for the first two games of the conference finals against upstart Winnipeg, as the Jets captured the opener, 4-2. However, the Golden Knights rebounded with four consecutive wins, while allowing a total of six goals in those victories. Center Jonathan Marchessault has paced the Knights in the postseason with 8 goals and 10 assists, while right wing Reilly Smith has dished out 14 assists in 15 games.

The Capitals are fresh off their third consecutive Metropolitan Division title, but failed to pick up the President’s Trophy for the first time since 2015. Alexander Ovechkin rebounded from a 33-goal campaign in 2017 to lead the NHL in goals this season by netting 49 tallies, while winning the goal-scoring title for the fifth time in six seasons.

Washington fell into a 2-0 hole against Columbus in the opening round after dropping a pair of overtime contests at home. The Capitals saved their season by winning four straight against the Blue Jackets, with two of those victories coming in overtime. Washington faced its mortal nemesis in the second round, trying to get over the hump against the two-time defending champion Penguins.

Pittsburgh knocked out Washington in each of the past two postseasons and were off to a good start after rallying from a 2-0 deficit to shock the Capitals in Game 1 by a 3-2 score. The Capitals bounced back to win four of the next five games and slay the Penguins and their title run, 4-2.

Washington faced Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Finals in an odd series as the road team won the first four games. The Lightning were on the verge of eliminating the Capitals after winning Game 5, but Washington stepped up with consecutive shutouts in Game 6 and Game 7 to grab the Eastern Conference title.

Head-to-Head Matchups: The Golden Knights have never lost to the Capitals in franchise history. Granted, it’s only two meetings, but Vegas pulled off the season sweep of Washington this season.

On December 23, the Knights netted three goals in the opening period to shut out the Capitals, 3-0 to cash as -130 home favorites. Alex Tuch, Oscar Lindberg, and William Karlsson each scored for Vegas, while Fleury stopped all 26 shots in the win. Washington was in the midst of a dreadful 1-1-2 road swing, which included post-regulation losses to the Coyotes and Rangers.

When the two teams hooked up again in D.C. on February 4, the Golden Knights edged the Capitals, 4-3 as short underdogs. Vegas rallied from a 3-2 third period deficit thanks to goals from Smith and Tuch, while Fleury picked up his second win in net against the Capitals after making 20 saves.

Stanley Cup History: One of these two franchises will hoist their first-ever Stanley Cup in June. Needless to say with Vegas in their first season, but Washington is playing in its second Stanley Cup in franchise history. The Capitals have never won a Stanley Cup game as they were swept in four games by the Red Wings in 1998. Five of the last six Stanley Cup series have gone to six games, as Detroit’s sweep of Washington in 1998 was the last time the Stanley Cup hasn’t reached at least five games.

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