Can the Golden Knights Make Hockey History?
by Nick Grott
For just the second time in NHL, NBA, MLB and NFL history, a first year expansion team has reached the final of their respective sport. The Las Vegas Golden Knights have earned their spot in the Stanley Cup Final in their very first year as a team and are matched up against the Washington Capitals who, despite making the playoffs 27 times, have never won the Stanley Cup. Either team can make history by winning this series.
In game one, the Golden Knights took a high scoring win, beating the Capitals 6-4 in a game plagued with turnovers and mistakes. Both teams are known as fundamentally sound and play with confidence, but after a week long rest, both teams came out energetic, but reckless. Nerves definitely played a role in this, and possibly stemmed from the enormous pressure on both franchises--especially the Capitals. Captain and star player Alex Ovechkin admitted that the game was “nerve-wracking” and said that “I think the next game is going to be different. All the nervousness is over.” This confidence will be crucial in the next game, which is in Las Vegas. Going up 2-0 would put the Caps in an extremely difficult position, but stealing game two would shift the home-ice advantage.
In game one, the high powered Las Vegas offense seemed relentless as they fired off shot after shot. Even against the strong Washington defense, the Knights seemed to have no problem putting five goals in the net before the open-net sixth goal. The takeaway is that the Capitals must find some energy that they did not have in game one, because the Knights were able to capitalize on every momentary lapse the Caps had. Golden Knights forward, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, talked about their tenacious offense and said, “It's not really magical play we're doing. It's nothing like a crazy recipe. We're just trying to outwork who we're playing against, and tonight we got rewarded.”
Another takeaway from the exciting first game of the series was the obvious advantage of depth held by Las Vegas. In the playoffs, a team needs to have depth and have several lines that can perform at a high level. The Knight’s fourth line managed to score the go-ahead goal in the third period and proved to be just as hardworking as the first three lines. The Capitals, on the other hand, do not have this luxury.
Although the Capitals may have the best player in this series in Ovechkin, who hockey fans will expect to put up his usual impressive numbers, the Knights seem to hold every other advantage. Besides defense, which is about equal between the two teams, offense, depth, goalkeeping, coaching, and effort seems to be controlled by the Golden Knights. The Capitals secondary players like Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie must step up and be able to consistently score and assist in every game. Despite the early odds against them this season, most people now believe that the Las Vegas Golden Knights will win this series in fewer than seven games. Although game one was close based on the final score, the Knights were clearly superior team and are fighting to make American sports history by winning a championship in their first season ever. The Las Vegas story seems to keep getting better, and it appears that their story may have a perfect ending.