Don’t let the Golden Knights win Game 5. That’s all I’m going to say.
And the theme of these playoffs have been if you think one thing, the opposite will probably happen. Especially surrounding these two teams.
The Capitals lead the Stanley Cup Final 3-1 following a 6-2 win in Game 4. Washington needs one win to seal its first Stanley Cup.
The Capitals have reached this point with three straight wins, beating and beating up the Golden Knights. Vegas hasn’t had any answers in the past three games since taking the series opener with a 6-4 victory.
I’m not taking the bait on this one. Not saying here’s the clock striking midnight on Vegas. Not doing my finest Gary Bettman impression and telling Alex Ovechkin to come get the Cup. I know all too well how these things turn out.
Again – whatever indication you’re getting, think the opposite.
The Golden Knights didn’t have the superstars the Kings had in the First Round. The likes of Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty would be too much. Vegas sweeps. The Sharks looked like they had Vegas on the ropes at points early in the Second Round. We all know what happened there. The Golden Knights were solved after one game with Winnipeg. All Vegas did was go on to win four straight games.
Meanwhile the Capitals were down 2-0 to the Blue Jackets going back to Columbus. They come back and win four in a row but who cares because there’s no way they’re going to beat the Penguins. They beat the Penguins, go up 2-0 on the Lightning then lose three straight and here we go again with this team. Same stuff, different year. Until it wasn’t.
And call me crazy, but I don’t think Vegas played all that terrible. The Golden Knights got out to a good start, had some good opportunities they couldn’t convert on (highlighted by James Neal’s whiff that will live in infamy) and all of a sudden they’re going to the locker room trailing 3-0. They came out strong, the Capitals got some breaks, the Golden Knights didn’t, and the game got away from them.
When you lose 6-2 there’s not many positives the team on the losing side can take from it. But there’s silver linings the Golden Knights can take from the loss. There was the good start, in which Gerard Gallant said after the game he felt the first period was the best 20 minutes Vegas had played this series. In the third period, the snakebit Golden Knights broke through with a pair of goals, with James Neal and Reilly Smith finding the net.
If the Golden Knights string together three straight wins – something they did eight times during the regular season and twice more during the playoffs – don’t be surprised if they cite moments from this Game 4 as ones that fueled the comeback and gave them the momentum they’d need to pull it off.
And most of all, don’t be surprised if they actually pull it off.
Goal of the Game
This goal is the microcosm of this Capitals run. When they need a play, they get it. The Golden Knights had scored two straight goals to cut the lead to 4-2. While they still had half the mountain to climb with less than seven minutes left, they were coming, and seven minutes might as well be seven months this time of year. And Michal Kempny delivered.
And what a game for Kempny. A guy who has been one of the Caps unsung heroes skating alongside John Carlson on the back end.
*For further reading on Kempny, here’s a good piece on the defenseman, who the Capitals acquired from the Blackhawks in February.
*The only team to rally from a 3-1 deficit in the Stanley Cup Final: 1942 Maple Leafs, who rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Red Wings.
*On the two Vegas goal scorers, James Neal and Reilly Smith: Were there two guys that needed goals more than those two given the way the past couple games have gone for them?
*Evgeny Kuznetsov is up to 31 points after finishing with four assists on Monday night. Only two other players have reached that point since 1997 – Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, who put up 36 and 31, respectively, in 2009.
*Of the 27 different 31-point postseasons that have happened in NHL history, 24 occurred between 1981-96. That was quite a time to be an offensive player.
*With his second period goal, John Carlson tied Calle Johansson for the Capitals franchise record for playoff points by a defenseman, with 54.
*Another beauty of a goal for Devante Smith-Pelly.
*Marc-Andre Fleury has a .845 save percentage in this series.
*Hard hat: Colin Miller – I know the Golden Knights didn’t win, but Miller didn’t back down. Competed right to the end.
*T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom eclipsed the 20-point mark with three-point games on Monday, the fourth time in the last eight years a team has had four 20-point scorers in a postseason. Two of those teams, the 2014 Kings and 2017 Penguins, went on to win the Cup.
*John Carlson is sitting on 19 points. No team has had five 20-point scorers in a postseason since the Minnesota North Stars in 1991.
*One last thought: Remember when the Capitals couldn’t win at home?