By: Allan Erickson
What a postseason it has been for the NHL. And we’ve finally reached the finals, with 2 of the best stories you’ll ever see, matched up against one another. First I’ll address the wonderful matchup in these finals, and why it’s so wonderful for the league. Then, I’ll pick your winner and give you the reason why they will hoist the Stanley Cup.
We’ll start with the Champions of the Eastern Conference- the Washington Capitals. Why is this special? Because we FINALLY get to see the best goal scorer in the NHL over the entirety of his career, compete for the ultimate trophy. Alexander Ovechkin is a generational hockey talent. He’s fast, he’s physical, and he knows how to find the back of the net better than any other hockey player in the league. As a hockey fan, it’s great to see the top goal scorer of the last 13 years finally get his chance to hoist the trophy. Ovi is not alone, however. You have to applaud the efforts from Nicklas Backstrom, the defensive play from Tom Wilson, the efforts from the fourth line, led by Devante Smith-Pelley, and the blue-liners are playing fantastic, led by 37 year old Brooks Orpik. And finally, the stellar goaltending that the Caps have received from Braden Holtby, mind you, he was benched in the first two games of their first series, has come off the bench and been rock solid in net. The big story here is that Ovechkin gets a chance to win a Stanley Cup, and stitch his name with the all-time hockey greats. However, this team has become closer and closer as a group, and it’s been fantastic to watch them get over the hump (Pittsburgh Penguins, in particular.)
Next we have, perhaps, the most impressive story in all of sports this year. The Western Conference Champions- the Las Vegas Golden Knights. A first year expansion team, made up of a bunch of castaways from other NHL rosters that coaches and general manager’s across the league are regretting letting go. From the beginning, this team has put the entire city of Las Vegas on their backs, carrying a city whose foundations were shaken by a tragic shooting at a concert. The team was backed, and immediately made Vegas a rocking arena where teams didn’t want to come and play. The level of energy that this team gets from the crowd is outstanding, it’s something you see from the Rangers, the Blackhawks, teams that are well established, and it’s been amazing to watch the journey this team and city have gone through to get here.
Now, the hard part. A wise man (my father) once told me to pick with your brain, and not with your heart. God rest his soul, but I’ve got to go against the advice of my father here, and pick with my heart. The Capitals have everything going for them, and the rule in hockey is to go with the hottest goalie, that would be Holtby, who pitched back-to-back shutouts in games 5 and 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. All of that being said, I’m picking the Vegas Golden Knights to win the Stanley Cup Finals. When you reach the NHL level, unless you’re a bonafide superstar, you play with a chip on your shoulder. The Vegas Golden Knights all have more than just a chip on their shoulder. It’s a boulder, a mountain, a city. This group plays harder for each other more than any team I’ve ever watched. I strongly believe that Vegas will continue their story, and complete their legacy with a championship, becoming the first expansion team since the Cleveland Browns in 1950, to win the championship in their respective sport in their inaugural season.
Game 1- LV 3 Was-2
Game 2- LV 2 Was-0
Game 3- Was 3 LV-2
Game 4- LV 2 Was-1 OT
Game 5- Was-3 LV-1
Game 6- Was-4 LV-3 OT
Game 7- LV-1 Was-0
The Knights will hoist the Stanley Cup in front of their home crowd. I’m all in with this Vegas team, and Washington will force the series to 7 games, but Ovechkin and company will come up short and have to try again next year. Tune in Monday Night for game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. It’s been a crazy ride, and there’s 7 more games to go.