Interesting facts about the 2017/18 Stanley Cup Final


With the Stanley Cup final between the expansion Golden Vegas Knights and the Washington Capitals set to begin on Monday, May 28th until Wednesday. June 13th at the latest, now is a great time to check out some fun and interesting facts about the series.

* The only previous final series between two clubs that had never won a Stanley Cup final playoff game before was between the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers in 1995/96.

* The last club to win a Stanley Cup in their first ever final series was the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003/04.

* If Vegas wins the cup, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury would be the first player to win it in three consecutive seasons since members of the New York Islanders achieved the feat between 1981 and 1983. 

* If Washington wins the cup they will be just the seventh team in history to lose the first two games of the playoffs and win the trophy.

* Las Vegas has never won a professional championship, simply because the city has never had a franchise before. Washington hasn't celebrated a victory since 1992 when the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl. The Washington Bullets last won the NBA title for the city in 1977/78 and the city hasn't won an MLB crown since 1924.

* Capitals' goaltender Braden Holtby is just the third goalie in history to win game six and seven of a semifinals series by shutout. The other goalies to achieve it were Dominik Hasek in 2002 and Harry Lumley in 1950. Both of those goalies went on to win the Stanley Cup those seasons.

* Lars Eller of Washington is hoping to become the first Danish-born player to win a Stanley Cup. Meanwhile, Pierre Edouard Bellemare of Vegas is hoping to become just the second French-born player to hoist the trophy after Cristobal Huet won the cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009/10. In addition, if Nathan Walker of Washington plays in the series against Vegas he'll become just the first
Australian-born player to play in the final since 1915/16.

* Washington's Alexander Ovechkin is the only NHL player to have won the Hart Trophy more than once as the league's most valuable player and never win a Stanley Cup.

* The only player to score more goals during his career before finally playing in a Stanley Cup final was Hall of Famer Dave Andreychuk who had 634. Andreychuk then captained the Tampa Bay Lightning to the trophy in his first final appearance in 2003/04.Ovechkin entered this year's playoffs with 607 regular-season goals to his name.

* Teams playing in their first ever Stanley Cup final such as Vegas, have gone 10-17 in the series. Teams which are playing in the final for the second time and have never won the cup, such as Washington, have gone 8-4. The Capitals were swept in four games by the Detroit Red Wings in their one and only final appearance in 1997/98. 

* If Vegas wins the cup, head coach Gerard Gallant would be the seventh coach in history to win the CHL's Memorial Cup and a Stanley Cup.

* If Washington wins the cup, head coach Barry Trotz would become the seventh coach to win both the AHL's Calder Cup and the Stanley Cup.

* The last NHL franchise to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in its history was the Los Angeles Kings in 2011/12. 

* If Vegas wins the cup they'll be just the third team ever to capture the trophy without a captain. The Boston Bruins didn't have a captain either when they won the cup in 1969/70 and 1970/71.

Vegas Golden Knights set to battle Washington Capitals in Stanley Cup Finals


This is the last chapter of the season for the Cinderella-story Vegas Golden Knights as the first year NHL expansion team will be going toe to toe with the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Finals starting Monday, May 28th. The Golden Knights were longshots to even reach the playoffs before the season faced off and were as high as 500/1 underdogs to win the cup. However, they're now just four wins away from becoming the first team in league history to win Lord Stanley's silverware in their inaugural season. Of course, they're also four losses way from finishing as runners up as well.

But even losing in the finals is somewhat an historical accomplishment for the club since just two previous expansion franchises have gotten that far in their first season. They're also the first major professional sports team in North America to reach the finals in their first year of operation. The last team to do it was the 1967/68 St. Louis Blues. The Blues had a bit of an advantage though since the NHL had expanded to 12 clubs from six that season and one of the six expansion teams was guaranteed to reach the finals.

In comparison to fellow NHL teams and other sports, the Florida Panthers reached the Stanley Cup finals during their third season in 1995/96. The Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA title in 1971, three years after joining the league and the Arizona Diamondbacks of MLB captured the World Series in 2001 during their fourth season. On the other hand the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the richest teams in the NHL, haven't reached the Stanley Cup finals since the 1966/67 campaign when they last hoisted the trophy. Vegas swept the Los Angeles Kings in four games then downed the San Jose Sharks in six and the Winnipeg Jets in five to reach this year's final series.

The Golden Knights will be taking on a club which has never won a Stanley Cup either and will be making their first appearance in the finals since 1997/98. The Capitals downed the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins in six games each in the first two rounds and just defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven in the Eastern Conference Final. The Caps won the first two against Tampa, then lost three in a row before winning the final two games by shutouts. The Capitals also won three of four games in Tampa and scored the final nine goals of the series.

Vegas won the Pacific Division and finished the 2017/18 campaign with 109 points for the fifth-best record in the NHL. Meanwhile, Washington reached 105 points, won the Metropolitan Division and were tied for sixth-best with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The two teams met just twice during the regular season with Vegas winning 3-0 at home on December 23rd and 4-3 in Washington on February 4th. Heading into the finals, Vegas will have the home ice advantage. They'll be facing a Washington team which has scored 3.47 goals per game in the playoffs to rank second and has allowed 2.47 goals against to rank tied for third. Vegas has the second-best goals-against average at 1.80 and have scored 2.87 goals per contest to rank ninth. 

Washington Capitals enjoying Eastern Conference Final for first time in 20 years


It may be hard to believe, but the Washington Capitals are competing in their first Eastern Conference Final in the past 20 years and have made the final four for just the third time in franchise history. Yes, two entire decades have passed by since their last appearance back in 1998. One of the main reasons Washington hasn't reached the semifinals lately has been because they're usually ousted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first or second round, losing nine of 10 previous series against them. They've also been ousted in game seven on four occasions in the second round in the past 10 years.

However, they turned the table on the defending Stanley Cup champions this year by knocking them out of the postseason in six games. The Capitals definitely won't take anything for granted right now, but their chances of reaching the Stanley Cup Final also look pretty good. They hold a 2-0 lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final with both wins coming on the road and they now return home for games three and four. Most fans have been surprised at the team's lack of success in the postseason over the years since the club has been consistently strong during the regular season. It also boasts one of the greatest players in NHL history in Alexander Ovechkin.

The seven-time-Rocket Richard Trophy winner as the league's top goalscorer hasn't had any luck at all in the playoffs until now. Ovechkin, who has never made it past the second round, has produced 10 goals and nine assists in 14 postseason outings this year and is a plus-5. He's been getting support from  Evgeny Kuznetsov (8 goals, 11 assists) Nicklas Backstrom (3 goals, 10 assists), Lars Eller (5 goals, 6 assists) T.J. Oshie (5 goals, 5 assists), Tom Wilson (3 goals, 6 assists) and defenceman John Carlson (3 goals, 10 assists). Unfortunately for the Caps, Backstrom has missed two games and is currently injured.

Things looked dire for Washington early in the postseason as they lost the first two games of the opening round to the Columbus Blue Jackets at home. They were then hanging on by their fingernails in game three, but managed to stay alive by winning in overtime. They then won the next three in a row to reach the Penguins and the second round. In addition, head coach Barry Trotz decided to go with veteran Braden Holtby in net in game three against Columbus after starting Philipp Grubauer in the first two contests and he's been between the pipes ever since. Holtby leads the playoffs with 10 wins with a 2.04 goals-against average and a 92.6 save percentage

The Capitals have scored an average of 3.79 goals per game during the playoffs to lead the NHL with the league average being 2.71 goals per contest. When it comes to special teams, their power play is ranked number two at 32.6% with the league average being 21.2% while their penalty killing is ranked just ninth at 76% with the average being 76.9%. The last time the Capitals made it to the third round of the playoffs they went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, only to be swept by the Detroit Red Wings in four games. Their fans are hoping this year's team can hoist the cup for the first time ever in franchise history.

Vegas Golden Knights half way to the Stanley Cup


The Cinderella story of the Vegas Golden Knights continues to grow as the NHL expansion franchise is half way to the Stanley Cup. After the most impressive first-year regular-season performance in league history, the Golden Knights have been just as impressive in the postseason so far by going 8-2. This includes a four-game sweep over two-time Stanley Cup champions the Los Angeles Kings and a six-game conquest of the San Jose Sharks. The Nevada-based squad now awaits the winner of the Winnipeg Jets vs Nashville Predators series to see who they'll face in the Western Conference Final.

Before the 2017/18 season faced off, the Golden Knights were approximately 500/1 to win the Stanley Cup with the oddsmakers. However, they surprised everybody, perhaps even themselves, by finishing the season with 59 wins and 109 points. The squad is made up of players who were deemed expendable by their original clubs as they were left unprotected in the expansion draft. In addition, head coach Gerard Gallant had recently been let go by the Florida Panthers before Golden Knights' general manager George McPhee picked him up. The players and coach then took to the ice as if they had something to prove to their previous employers.

The Golden Knights added a few solid players to the roster during the draft with the most well-known of the bunch being forward James Neal and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. There's no doubt the team is getting the exceptional goaltending a Stanley Cup contender needs as the three-time Stanley Cup winner Fleury has already posted a league-leading four shutouts in the playoffs. He was also ranked number one in goals-against average at 1.53 and was best in save percentage at 95.1. The offence has also been pulling their weight and combined with their speed and physical play the Golden Knights are a legitimate contender to win it all.

The playoff scoring has been evenly spread out as forward Jonathan Marchessault leads the way with four goals and seven assists in 10 games and is followed by William Karlsson at four goals and six assists. Reilly Smith has also chipped in with a goal and 10 helpers. With Alex Tuch, David Perron and James Neal each contributing with seven points. Team-wise, the Golden Knights are the top defensive side in the postseason with a GAA of 1.70 while the league average is 3.13.  They've scored 2.90 goals-per game with the average being 2.76 and the penalty kill is working at an 85 per cent rate which is the second-best in the playoffs and the average being 77.5 per cent.

If there is any room for improvement it's on the power play where the team has been successful just 17.5 per cent of the time while the league average is 20.7. There's no doubt the Golden Knights will have their hands full with either the Predators or Jets as the next opponents. But if they can keep up the pace and physicality and Fleury continues his Conn Smythe-calibre goaltending then it looks like the sky's the limit in 2017/18 for this exciting club.