The Washington Capitals are in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years and second time in their 44-year history. Their opponent will be the Vegas Golden Knights, who are in the Stanley Cup Final in their inagural season.
Vegas has had one spectacular season. They were projected to finish near the bottom of not just the Pacific division, but the entire league. Whereas Washington, while projected to still make the playoffs, was not expected to win the Metropolitan division for the third straight year.
For the Caps to beat the Golden Knights, they will have to overcome the following three storylines:
- The student versus the teacher (General Manager Brian McLellan versus General Manager George McPhee).
- Defenseman Nate Schmidt going from a seventh defenseman in Washington to the defensive leader in Vegas.
- Marc-Andre Fleury, the goalie of torments past.
Here’s how the Caps can beat the Golden Knights and claim their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Ignore the storylines
As previously mentioned, there are going to be a lot of off-ice storylines that can serve as distractions. The Caps successfully ignored all the storylines in their second round matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins, they will need to do it again in this series.
Always be alert
In their last series against the Winnipeg Jets, it seemed like every time Winnipeg scored a big goal, Vegas responded almost immediately. Vegas was able to flip whatever momentum the Jets generated back in their favor. The Caps will need to be conscious of this if they want to keep their momentum going.
The Caps have done extremely well on the road this postseason, going a combined 8-2 in the first three rounds, including winning all three games in Columbus in the first round. With the Caps again not having home ice advantage, their road play will need to lift them once more.
“The Fleury problem”
While some will say otherwise, Fleury isn’t actually that good against the Caps in the playoffs.
Tired: The Caps need to overcome their longtime playoff nemesis, Marc-Andre Fleury, who has absolutely owned them in the postseason for a decade.
Wired: Fleury is 8-6/2.80/.902 against Washington in his playoff career.
— Japers' Rink (@JapersRink) May 25, 2018
While he has made some spectacular saves, the Caps will need to keep Fleury moving side-to-side to beat him. In addition, if the Caps have a chance to shoot, they need to do so and crash the net looking for rebounds. That will be the key to beating Fleury.
The Capitals and Golden Knights are both looking for their first Stanley Cup. For the Caps, it has been 43 years without one, while for Vegas, they are looking to become the first expansion team to ever win the Lord Stanley’s Cup. If the Caps want to do it, they’ll need to follow my keys for the series.