Aaron Altherr

Aaron Altherr

Postautor: hongwei28 » 6 wrz 2018, o 06:30

The Washington Capitals have waited nearly 44 years to raise the Stanley Cup for the first time.

Their only remaining obstacles are some desert-dwelling misfits who refuse to wait for anything.

The expansion Vegas Golden Knights are just four wins away from an astounding championship when they host Alex Ovechkin’s long-striving Caps on Monday night to open a thoroughly improbable Stanley Cup Final.

Even the players from the NHL’s last two teams standing seemed a bit surprised by their achievements when they gathered Sunday in balmy 84-degree Nevada weather.

”Who would have thunk it?” asked Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt Akiem Hicks Jersey , who played the previous four seasons for the Capitals. ”The Stanley Cup Final that was never meant to be, right?”

Indeed, a first-time NHL champ will be crowned next month after a Final between two teams that arrived at hockey’s ultimate destination from very different directions. While the Caps finally climbed over the hump in the Eastern Conference, the Golden Knights have been bulldozing every logical obstacle in their path since October.

”We’ve been able to do some things in the playoffs, but we never got to that last stage until now,” Washington forward T.J. Oshie said. ”And everybody knows what Vegas did in the first year is very special. We’re both hungry. This is going to be a beast of a series.”

The Golden Knights have exceeded every expectation by utilizing a rich expansion draft and multiple clever coaching moves to create a team that dominated the Pacific Division and then rampaged through the Western Conference playoffs. Their story still carries a ring of impossibility, but they’re close to adding a real ring to every hand in the dressing room full of self-described ”Golden Misfits,” as their T-shirts say.

The Capitals have repeatedly fallen short of their postseason goals during Ovechkin’s career, including a heartbreaking shutout loss to Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 7 of the second round against Pittsburgh last spring. After falling to Fleury’s champion Penguins in the past two postseasons, the Caps revamped their roster with youth and finally overcame years of playoff disappointment to reach their first Final in two decades. Of course, Fleury is in the way again – in goal for the Golden Knights.

Neither team was the favorite to get this far. Neither team is ready to stop now.

While Capitals coach Barry Trotz skated his now-customary hot lap before practice at T-Mobile Arena, the Golden Knights had their usual standing room-only crowd for practice at their training complex in suburban Summerlin.

Their grip on this sports-hungry town was already strong, and the 24-hour gambling mecca will come to a standstill this week during the Cup games in the arena behind the New York New York hotel-casino and its 150-foot Statue of Liberty, which has been wearing a Golden Knights jersey since April.

Speaking of larger-than-life figures in hockey sweaters, this series showcases two major talents who can cement a legacy.

Ovechkin is a formidable scorer and competitor, but he has never won an Olympic medal with Russia or a Stanley Cup ring with the Caps. He’s keeping a sense of humor about this momentous trip: With a straight face Sunday, Ovechkin said Russian President Vladimir Putin had called him to wish him luck Teez Tabor Jersey , before adding: ”I’m just joking.”

”We want to be here,” Ovechkin said. ”We work so hard all year. I don’t think nobody believes in us, and nobody believes in Vegas, and we’re right now in the Stanley Cup Finals, and we fight for a Cup. Come enjoy this moment.”

Fleury already has three Stanley Cup rings, but he has added another incredible act to his career with tenacious play for the Golden Knights, whose inexperienced pros have leaned on him to get through tough nights.

”I think it’s weird seeing that team here, being in the Cup the first year,” said Brooks Orpik, the only Washington player with a ring. ”Obviously, I’m not surprised (Fleury) is here. Without him, they weren’t beating us last year. He singlehandedly won a couple of games for (Pittsburgh) when we totally outplayed them.”

Here are more things to know about the ice hockey event in the Mojave:

COACHING CROWN

The winning coach also will raise the Stanley Cup for the first time in a fitting peak to two careers built on resilience. The 55-year-old Trotz never played in the NHL, but his 19th season as an NHL coach is ending in his first Cup Final. Gerard Gallant was a solid NHL forward for Detroit, but the 54-year-old bench boss had never even won a playoff round as an NHL coach before this spring.

(TURN)OVER KNIGHTS

Several Capitals pointed out the importance of minimizing turnovers against the Golden Knights, whose counterattacking acumen and team speed cause problems. ”They’re a very fast team and when you turn pucks over, they’re like a shark smelling blood in the water,” Oshie said. ”They all stop on a dime and want to take it the other way. That’s how they get a lot of their offense.”

CAPTAIN CHARGE

Ovechkin could become the first Russian captain to raise the Stanley Cup. If the Knights win Marqise Lee Jersey , they don’t have a captain to raise the Cup first. Gallant and GM George McPhee decided to rely on a six-man leadership council instead. ”I think that’s the best decision we ever made,” Gallant said. ”Sure, there’s guys who could have been captain in our group, but it was their first year – and we really didn’t think we’d be grabbing the (Western Conference) trophy the Marc-Andre Fleury was having such a good time Thursday night, he joined in when the sold-out crowd at T Mobile Arena started doing the wave.

And why not?

Fleury stopped 33 shots for his third shutout of the playoffs, and the Vegas Golden Knights went on to beat the San Jose Sharks 7-0 in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.

”I’ve always been a big fan (of the wave), I saw it coming around, heard the music going, sometimes I try to have some fun,” Fleury said with a wide smile. ”We did our best to stay sharp for that first game and I think we did. I thought we had the jump on them right away and that was a big part of the win tonight.”

Fleury, who improved to 5-0 in the playoffs, got his 13th career shutout in the playoffs – and second straight. He also blanked Los Angeles 1-0 in Game 4 of the first round.

After getting seven goals from seven different players during a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Kings in the opening round, the Golden Knights matched that with seven players scoring for them on Thursday.

Cody Eakin, Erik Haula and Jonathan Marchessault scored 1:31 apart early in the first period to get Vegas going. Alex Tuch, Shea Theodore, Colin Miller and James Neal also scored, Reilly Smith and William Karlsson each had three assists Cordy Glenn Jersey , and Marchessault and David Perron added two each.

”It was a great game for us, obviously we played a full 60 minutes and that’s what you want from your team in the playoffs,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. ”It wasn’t even about the seven goals, it was about how we played the game.”

The Golden Knights, the first team from the opening round to advance, showed no sign of rust after having nine days off since completing their first-round sweep over the Kings. From the opening puck drop, Vegas skated fast, its passes were crisp, and the players were in synch with one another. It has now outscored its opposition 14-3 in five games.

”We got better in practice, we ramped it up, so we were excited to get going.” Neal said. ”We talked about having a good first shift and I thought every guy did that tonight. I thought we went to the net well. We did good things, for us I think we have to look at them, they’re going to be a hungry team, they’re going to be a lot better. They’ll be putting that one behind them pretty quick and looking to be a better hockey team so we gotta be ready.”

San Jose, which swept Anaheim in the first round, looked out of sorts by the time Vegas put its first three in the net just 6:02 into the game, and the Sharks lost their cool early in the third period Markus Wheaton Jersey , when Evander Kane was ejected for cross-checking Pierre-Edouard Bellemare in the face after a whistle.

Martin Jones, who stopped 128 of 132 shots in the first round against the Ducks, was pulled a little more than three minutes into the second period after allowing five goals on 13 shots. Backup goalie Aaron Dell came in and finished with 19 saves.

It was the Sharks’ worst loss in playoff history. Detroit blanked San Jose 6-0 in the 1995 Western Conference semifinals.

”We had a laundry list of issues today,” San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said. ”It’s obviously not pretty, we know we have to do better across the board. It’s on us to respond now.”

Eakin started the scoring barrage when he deflected Brayden McNabb’s wrist shot from the point past Jones 4:31 into the game. Before the public-address announcer could trumpet the game’s first goal, Haula finished Tuch’s rush to the net 26 seconds later with a sniper past Jones to double Vegas’ lead.

Marchessault made it 3-0 when he fired a shot from inside the circle past Jones, notching his first career playoff goal. Tuch capped the scoring in the opening period when he sliced through four defenders, made a swift move to his forehand for a wrist shot that beat Jones for a power-play goal.

Jones’ night ended 3:28 into the second when Smith threaded a pass to Theodore, who promptly tipped it into the twine to give Vegas a 5-0 lead.

While Kane was called for a game misconduct, Joe Pavelski went off at the same time for slashing, giving Vegas a 5-3 edge on the ice. The Golden Knights took full advantage, as Miller’s one-timer blazed past Dell to make it 6-0 at 4:32 of the third.

Neal, who had a goal overturned in the second period, extended the lead to 7-0 when he took Perron’s pass and wrapped it around past Dell on the power play at 8:09.

NOTES: Vegas’ four goals in the first period marked the fifth tim1e this season it netted four in one period. … It was the third time this season the Sharks allowed four goals in a period. … No. 1 UFC featherweight contender Brian Ortega, who fill fight champion Max Holloway for the title on July 7, was in attendance.

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