The final chapter is about to be written for the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, where the expansion Vegas Golden Knights will face off against the Washington Capitals. The HabsWorld writers provide their predictions on who they expect will raise the NHL’s silver chalice, and those choices are split 50-50.
Stanley Cup Final
Vegas Golden Knights vs Washington Capitals
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Golden Knights in 7 games
Kevin Leveille predicts: Golden Knights in 6 games
Craig Scharien predicts: Capitals in 6 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Capitals in 6 games
(Norm) To paraphrase a corny line, I’m putting my money on Vegas. This is an exciting team that have been dominating the postseason and regular season in a Cinderella-like story for their inaugural year in the NHL. I don’t want their story to be halted with a loss in the finals. They have faced teams with much more playoff experience in Los Angeles and Nashville and successfully defeated them both. In the last round they faced a Winnipeg squad that was on par with the Golden Knights in the regular season, but with a bigger and more aggressive squad, and still Vegas managed to win. Marc-Andre Fleury has been rejuvenated since arriving in Nevada, and he along with everyone else on this team has overachieved.
Certainly, the Capitals franchise have gone through their ups and downs throughout their history, with several past playoff disappointments. Many fans and media would like to see a player like Alex Ovechkin finally win the Cup and dispel the negative criticisms he and his team have faced over the last 10+ seasons. This postseason the Capitals have played very well, particularly with defeating their nemesis the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team that has haunted Washington in the playoffs.
Washington will give the Golden Knights a run for their money. But in the end, there’s too much to like about Vegas, who will out-compete the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup and conclude their storybook happy ending. Vegas baby!
(Kevin) Two division winners who were cast aside as unlikely winners in the very first round of the playoffs now face off for the ultimate prize. A quick look at the regular season numbers actually gives the edge to Vegas, who had better offensive and defensive numbers than the Caps. The Knights, in my opinion, have more consistent goaltending too. Where the advantage fades for Vegas is that this is likely the first series where the Knights face a team that is playing under the same amount of pressure as they are: none. Washington, much like San Jose in 2016, has already shed its playoff label, and is now playing with “house money” much like Vegas has all season long. Washington is far more battle-tested, having played far more games this postseason, though even that claim loses some credibility after Vegas eliminated the Jets in the last round. Can Ovechkin get his Cup? Or will Vegas continue to their miracle run? After watching the series against the Jets, I simply cannot cast my vote against the Golden Knights, a first in these playoffs. An expansion team champion… How many people will be kicking themselves that they didn’t place a bet at the start of the season like they jokingly said they should with their friends?
(Craig) It seems like the Stanley Cup Final we never knew we wanted, but it should be a great one. After finally getting past Pittsburgh and advancing to the Conference Finals this seems like it may be the Caps year and they looked dominant at times against the Lightning. Meanwhile the Golden Knights dismantled the powerful Winnipeg Jets thanks to their relentless style and another spectacular performance by Marc-Andre Fleury.
While the Knights and Fleury will put up a good fight, I think Ovechkin simply won’t be denied. Beyond the Great 8, the Capitals are just too deep, with the likes of Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Oshie and John Carlson causing too many matchup issues for the upstart Golden Knights. Fleury may get the Conn Smythe, but Washington gets the Cup.
(Brian) This is a matchup between two teams that I’ve picked to lose in every round in these playoffs. Clearly, I don’t have a great read on either side…
Marc-Andre Fleury continues to impress and as much as his numbers don’t look sustainable, it’s hard to argue against three dominant rounds. Vegas continues to have a balanced attack and at this point, it’s reasonable to expect that to be the case here as well.
Meanwhile, Braden Holtby has done well this postseason, especially considering he started as the backup. While Fleury has outperformed him thus far, the advantage they have in that department isn’t too large. However, Washington’s attack has been a lot more potent thus far to the tune of more than half a goal per game. They’ve done that without a fully-healthy Nicklas Backstrom which is even more impressive. The Caps get the edge in this department.
Defensively, I don’t think there’s a big gap between the two teams. Vegas is more balanced while the Capitals have the best player but also the weaker third pairing so that’s more or less a wash. Basically, it’s a question of who will win out, the better offence or the better goaltending. I’m taking the offence.