Stanley Cup Final: Game 5
Thursday, June 7, 2018 - 8:00 p.m. ET
T-Mobile Arena - Las Vegas, NV
Watch: NBC - NBC Sports App - NBCSports.com
Washington Capitals Keys to Victory
- Lord Stanley In The House: Tonight could be the night that the Caps bring home their first Stanley Cup to the nation’s capital. The Cup would bring DC its first championship in 26 years. The last championship was a Washington Redskins Super Bowl victory when they topped the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI in 1992. (It’s been a while.) A Cup would take the weight of pressure off of Alex Ovechkin’s back and allow him to forever remove the label of playoff underperformer. You can expect the Great 8 to play his heart out to lift Lord Stanley tonight.
- Conn Evgeny: No player deserves the Conn Smythe more if the Capitals are able to win Game 5 than Evgeny Kuznetsov. His injury in Game 2 could have derailed the series for Washington had he not returned, but he did and hasn’t missed a beat. Kuznetsov has 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) this postseason, and of those 12 goals, nine are at even strength and he’s shooting at an impressive rate of 13.8%. He is continuing to blossom into a star as he moves towards his prime.
- Premium Passing: A big reason why the Capitals hold a huge advantage in the series is their accurate passing. Their ability to find teammates on the ice makes them look like the Harlem Globetrotters at times. One timers and slick saucer passes have confused and made Marc-Andre Fleury’s life more difficult as the series has moved along. A few slick passes tonight could be the difference between lifting the Stanley Cup or heading back to Washington for Game 6. - Justin Lape
Vegas Golden Knights Keys to Victory
- Play Defense: I mean, this should go without saying, but oh boy that last game was bad. The first three Caps goals were scored by players left all alone in the slot, first T.J. Oshie on a rebound, then Tom Wilson on a one-timer, then Devante Smith-Pelly on a deflection. All three goals came in the first period and ended the Knights’ game before it even started despite an extremely fast and dangerous start. If they played even basic defense on the first or second goals, they could have stopped the floodgates from opening. More goals came later, but by the time it’s 3-0 in the first, everything else turns into garbage time.
- Score the Easy Ones: Referring back to the Knights’ quick start, they dominated play in the first four minutes and were even able to draw a rare Capitals penalty. In the first eight minutes, they had 12 shot attempts to the Caps’ two, and hit the post twice including on a mini empty net attempt from William Karlsson. But the most egregious miss came on the power play when James Neal had an entire empty net and plenty of time to play the puck. He shot and missed, hitting the far post from just outside the crease. Just one of these early chances going in could have completely changed the makeup of the game, taken the crowd out of it, and rattled Braden Holtby. Instead, the Caps charged back and converted these chances, and the last 40 minutes of the game were irrelevant.
- Keep up the Speed: A big part of the Knights’ fast start in Game 4 was the incredible speed that Vegas is capable of playing with. When they fly from blue line to blue line they keep defenses guessing and teams think twice about when they can make a line change. They won Game 1 by creating odd man breaks. They stayed in Game 2 by generating offense on breakouts. They need to keep up with this strategy and force the defense to play with their sticks pointed towards their own net. They don’t have the pure skill that Washington has, but their speed can negate this advantage. Tire them out early, get them out of position, and make them think twice about putting extra attackers in the rush. That’s how Vegas creates a Game 6. - Zeke Lukow