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Five Sports Illustrated Experts Pick Vegas To Play For The Cup (Plus Our Picks)

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As we continue holding out for some level of hope for the NHL season to resume, some outlets are continuing the tradition of making their annual Stanley Cup predictions. This year Tampa Bay and Vegas were the two teams most picked to play in the Cup finals by Sports Illustrated.

Five SI experts chose the Golden Knights to participate in the Final if the season were to continue play. Unfortunately, four out of the five picked the Golden Knights to lose in the Stanley Cup Final.

Matt Larkin: Lightning over Golden Knights in six

Sam McCaig: Lightning over Golden Knights in five

Edward Fraser: Lightning over Golden Knights in six

Ryan Kennedy: Lightning over Golden Knights in six

Each prediction had Vegas losing to Tampa in six games or less. Ouch, not even one deciding game. The lone SI expert that awarded Lord Stanley’s cup to the Golden Knights left Tampa out of the Final completely. Here’s his explanation of why he chose VGK as the 2020 NHL champions.

Dan Falkenheim: Golden Knights over Bruins in six

Since Jan. 15, no team has a higher share of expected goals (58.5%). Robin Lehner’s arrival ensured Vegas would enter the playoffs with the NHL’s best netminding situation. And all the sudden, with Max Pacioretty turning back the clock, the Golden Knights looked like the West’s top team before the pause.

Much less drama for the Bruins, some 2,700 miles away. Save for a mediocre 4-5-6 stretch running from early December into the New Year, Boston has been the league’s most consistent team throughout the season. Tuukka Rask’s emergence as the Vezina frontrunner helped the Bruins carve out an eight-point lead in the Atlantic Division and serves as a reminder that he can carry a team as far as he wants to. Both Boston and Vegas are built to withstand the rigors of postseason hockey—each has reached the finals within the last three years—but the Golden Knights are the team that comes out on top in a matchup between recent Stanley Cup losers. -Dan Falkenheim, SI.com

It’s an intriguing matchup, to say the least. The last two Stanley Cup runner-ups battling to end their finals losing streaks. Both teams are recognized for elite-level skill and fantastic goaltending. Plus after the pause, Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone will be fresh and fully healthy for Vegas and Boston’s older veterans will get some much needed extra rest for their pursuit.

Although SI went heavy on Tampa, they’re not the team I selected to win the cup. Nor to come out of the East. Here are our predictions for this year’s Stanley Cup finals.

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Golden Knights vs. Washington Capitals Photo Gallery – February 17th, 2019

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VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 3 WASHINGTON CAPITALS 2 (31-22-8 70 PTS)

Recap: It was another Kid’s Day at the T-Mobile Arena The Golden Knights got off to a great start against the Washington Capitals. Nick Holden scored his 5th goal of the season 3:43 into the game. Vegas jumped on Washington early and capitalized on their mistakes. Reilly Smith doubled the Golden Knights lead with his 23rd of the season late in the opening frame. After 20 minutes the home team held a 2-0 edge.

Max Pacioretty gave his team a three goal lead 14:06 into the 2nd period. Vegas held Washington to only 6 shots in the period, and 0 shots on the power play. After the first two periods, the Golden Knights were up 3-0.

The Capitals got back into the game in the 3rd period getting two power play goals from TJ Oshie. However, the Golden Knights were able to fight off the Caps attack and close out the game 3-2.

Vegas improves their record to 31-22-8 raising their point total to 70 points. The Golden Knights take on a tough Tampa team on Thursday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7p. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: The Caps sleepwalked through the first 40 minutes allowing the Golden Knights to dictate the game. Vegas took advantage of it though jumping out to a three-goal lead. Washington woke up in the 3rd scoring twice but the VGK response defensively was excellent. It wasn’t the prettiest game in the world, but it’s a third straight win and a good one. (Analysis by Ken)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Washington Capitals at T-Mobile Arena

  • Photo gallery from the game

Ken’s Three VGK Stars
*** Brayden McNabb
** Nate Schmidt
* Reilly Smith

 

WASHINGTON CAPITALS 5 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 2 (9-6-3 21 PTS)

The Golden Knights put themselves in an early hole giving up a goal to Evgeny Kuznetsov :58 seconds into the game. The Capitals scored again five minutes later. Vegas would grind back and get within one on Max Pacioretty’s fifth of the year.

Washington would take a 3-1 lead early in the 2nd period but again Vegas would continue to chip away. Reilly Smith would make it 3-2 on a Golden Knights power play with his team leading 10th goal of the year.

The Golden Knights would begin the 3rd on the power play but couldn’t score a game tying goal. The Capitals would take another two goal lead with a power play goal by Nick Backstrom. Vegas would kill a 5-on-3 but couldn’t creep back. Washington would get a late empty netter to win 5-2.

Vegas’ record drops to (9-6-3) and sit with 21 points. The Golden Knights get right back to it tomorrow afternoon in Detroit. Faceoff against the Red Wings is scheduled for 2PM. (Recap by Jason)


Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights at Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena

  • Steve Carp’s Sunday column on the Jonny Greco’s departure. (Plus, his 5 favorite in-arena moments in VGK history.)

Ken’s Three VGK Stars
*** Reilly Smith
** Brayden McNabb
* Max Pacioretty

Golden Knights vs. Washington Capitals Photo Gallery – December 4th, 2018

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VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 5 WASHINGTON CAPITALS 3 (15-13-1 31 PTS)

An early power play goal got things going for the Golden Knights. Ryan Reaves put home an excellent pass in front of the goal from Cody Eakin. Then the game started to get a bit ugly as the hitting rained down all over the ice. Reaves lit up Tom Wilson, Alex Ovechkin destroyed Tomas Nosek, and William Carrier was hitting everything that moved. During it all, Washington took the lead back. The Golden Knights killed the 5-minute major penalty that sent Reaves to the showers for hitting Tom Wilson. Then. Vegas scored twice in 16 seconds to regain the lead. Nate Schmidt scored late in a 4-minute power play to give the Golden Knights the lead very late in the 3rd and then Schmidt nailed the empty netter to seal it. The game of the year in the NHL to this point.

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Washington Capitals at T-Mobile Arena.

  • Carp’s column on Seattle expansion, including quotes from Foley on taking the exemption over the money.
  • Photo gallery from this incredible game
  • The most consistent part of the Golden Knights game: Penalty Killing

Three Stars
*** Cody Eakin
** Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
* Nate Schmidt

Ryan Reaves #75 of the Vegas Golden Knights taunts Tom Wilson #43 of the Washington Capitals after checking him to the ice at the T-Mobile Arena on December 4, 2018 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Brandon Andreasen)

Two Golden Knights Say VGK Played Well, Two Others Completely Disagree; The Divide Is Not Ideal

There hasn’t been nearly enough of this thus far. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are now 1-3-0 in their first four games of the season. Two points in four games is not going to make anyone happy. However, there is a bit of a sense that Vegas has been playing a little better than the scores have indicated at times.

Specifically, last night in Washington, the Golden Knights created plenty of goal scoring chances and got bit by the post a few times. To me, it was a well-played game for Vegas on the road against the best team in hockey. On most nights, especially at home, that level of play will win games, even with the few mistakes that were made. One Golden Knight and the Jack Adams award winner agree.

Maybe the score wasn’t relative to the game that was shown. We had a lot of posts, maybe three or four. We had the puck a lot. I thought it was probably one of our better games so far. It’s a good sign. We are getting chances, we are getting pucks to the net. We’re going to score at some point. -Marc-Andre Fleury

I thought we played a real good game 5-on-5, we got lots of scoring chances, their goalie played real well, so I liked a lot of our game but we gave them too many odd-man rushes and too many power plays. -Gerard Gallant

However, that sentiment was not shared by everyone in the locker room.

I don’t think this was our best game. We played like a team with no identity and if we are going to try and trade chances with the Capitals we aren’t going to win. It wasn’t our best and there are some things we can tighten up and I think awareness is something we can do a much better job with. -Reilly Smith

I just think as a whole we aren’t playing our game. We are taking too many penalties. It’s a long year but we have to figure out things quick. Our goal from this road trip is to be a .500 team and when we are playing like this, that’s not going to happen. We definitely have to work some things out and find our game. -Shea Theodore

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WASHINGTON CAPITALS 5 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 2 (1-3-0 2 PTS)

Vegas played a much better first two periods out-chancing the Caps. But, like has been the norm through three and a half games the scoreboard did not agree. Washington scored on the power play and then on a quick odd-man rush. Holtby stoned a number of great chances from the Golden Knights top line. Cody Eakin scored a great wraparound goal in his first game of the year. The Golden Knights fought back time and time again but just could not get the game tied. Score looks a lot worse than the game actually was.

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Washington Capitals at CapitalOne Arena.

  • Not only are the Golden Knights disjointed on the ice, but they’ve also been disjointed in how they’re feeling about their play.

Three Stars
*** Nicklas Backstrom
** Alex Ovechkin
* Evgeny Kuznetsov

WASHINGTON CAPITALS 4 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 3 (4-1 WSH)

The game got off to a horribly slow start with neither team creating much of anything. Then a penalty by Colin Miller gave the Capitals their first real opportunity of the game. Alex Ovechkin banged one off the bar and Vegas escaped unscathed. The period ended scoreless, not the Golden Knights best though.

The 2nd was the complete opposite. Five total goals were scored in a span of 14 minutes in the period. Washington scored first and third, the Golden Knights came back to tie the game twice with goals from Nate Schmidt and David Perron. Then, a late power play goal from Reilly Smith put Vegas ahead for the first time since the 1st period of Game 2. Following the goal, a massive scrum ensued which resulted in four roughing penalties.

Vegas had a couple good chances to open the period, specifically from the second line. Tomas Tatar then took a hooking penalty which opened the door again for the Capital power play. They were unable to convert, but that didn’t stop them from pouring on the pressure and ending the Golden Knights dreams of winning the Stanley Cup in their expansion season. A pair of 3rd period goals gave the Capitals the lead, one they would hold to the finish to win the Stanley Cup.

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Washington Capitals in Game 5 of Stanley Cup Final of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at T-Mobile Arena.

  • Three wins short.
  • The first of many posts looking towards next year and how the Golden Knights can complete the final hurdle.

Three Stars
*** David Perron
** Devante Smith-Pelly
* Lars Eller

 

WASHINGTON CAPITALS 6 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 2 (3-1 WSH)

The Golden Knights came out looking like the best team in hockey for the first 10 minutes of the game. All four lines were buzzing, they created three or four Grade A chances, but Brayden Holtby and his post kept all of them out. Then, a tripping penalty in the center of the ice on Colin Miller led to a power play goal and the ceiling caved in from there. Two more 1st period goals sent the game to intermission at 3-0 and the Golden Knights into a hole in the series they will have a very tough time climbing out of.

Another barrage of VGK chances opened the 2nd, and once again, the posts and Holtby kept them all from getting to the net. A power play the other way and the Caps take advantage again.

The Golden Knights cut it to 4-2 with a couple goals in the 3rd, but couldn’t keep the Capitals off the board. Just not Vegas’ night and not a good trip to Washington.

Now, it’s a 3-1 deficit in the series and the Golden Knights will look to become the first team since 1942 to win three straight when down 3-1 and win a series.

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Washington Capitals in Game 4 of Stanley Cup Final of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at Capital One Arena.

  • The must-win Golden Knights arrived on time, created chances, but couldn’t get one to go. Then, they disappeared. Their chances in the series likely went with them.
  • The ugly numbers behind 3-1.

Three Stars
*** Brayden Holtby
** Evgeny Kuznetsov
* T.J. Oshie

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