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Capitals, Golden Knights play it safe on Stanley Cup Final Media Day

Do best to stay off each other's bulletin boards before Game 1

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

LAS VEGAS -- Words were spilled by the thousands at T-Mobile Arena on Sunday, scores of media wading hip-deep through the quotes of Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals players, coaches and management on Stanley Cup Final Media Day.

This feeding frenzy is an annual tradition, the final full-scale question-and-answer session before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, which is Monday in Las Vegas (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, CBC, TVAS). This deep into the postseason, reporters are scratching for the very rare angle they've not yet explored, and players are trying to restructure answers that they've given dozens of times.

The stories shared Sunday were fun, the mood light. But there was no new, important light shed onto the playoff landscape, which is exactly how the teams wanted it.

 

[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Capitals series coverage]

 

Vegas was thrown first onto the interview grill, general manager George McPhee and coach Gerard Gallant and two groups of Golden Knights followed by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Then came Washington, general manager Brian MacLellan and coach Barry Trotz, then two groups of Capitals players, followed by captain Alex Ovechkin.

The session was held on the concourse level of the arena, Fleury and Ovechkin speaking one long escalator ride above. On the main level, at one end of the layout, was a makeshift NHL Network studio, with the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy at either end of the stage. Any player who ventured up for interviews didn't cast a single glance at either trophy.

Video: Fleury on being confident with the Golden Knights

All spoke, sometimes at length, but there would be nothing said that qualified as fuel for a fire, nothing uttered that either team would post in their dressing room before Game 1.

"You don't want to give (your opponent) anything," said Golden Knights forward James Neal, a veteran of 95 Stanley Cup Playoff games, six in the Final last season with the Nashville Predators.

"You want to say the right things, say good things about the other team and stay humble about your own team. That's part of the battle, going back and forth through the media. You don't want to give the media anything (that would) give the other team motivation. You don't want to say something out of character, or the wrong thing maybe after a game when you're fired up after a loss, when you're emotional. 

"As you grow older and go through it a little more, you understand what you can and can't say. You don't want to say anything that will get you into trouble, that's for sure."

Video: Ovechkin on facing Vegas, excitement in Russia

Why, Vegas defenseman Deryk Engelland wondered, would any player reveal to the media anything the opponent could use to their advantage?

"Besides," he said, "It's no secret what both teams do and what one does similar to or differently than the other. Everyone scouts everyone."

The Capitals would be singing from roughly the same hymn book.

"We've hit that point by now," joked Washington forward Devante Smith-Pelly. 

Defenseman Brooks Orpik, he pointed out, is the only Capitals player with Final experience, having played in two with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008 and 2009. 

"This is new to all of us but one guy," Smith-Pelly said. "It's exciting. I've never sat at a podium like this. We're taking it all in, we're enjoying every day."

Video: Orpik on Cup Final experience, playing against Fleury

Though Smith-Pelly suggested he'd not say anything worth posting in the Golden Knights' dressing room, he sat for a full half-hour, speaking with wave after wave of reporters. Having so much fun, he almost had to be dragged off the podium by handlers, then stepped down to spend a few more minutes with a couple of journalists he knew from 66 games with the Montreal Canadiens from 2015-16, eager to talk about his former team. 

Likewise chatty was center Lars Eller, who landed with the Capitals from Montreal in a trade on June 24, 2016.

"This round, it's become questions about the Stanley Cup -- how does it feel, what does it mean," Eller said. "But I have repeated my answers a lot the last four or five days. We'll approach it the same way we have every series. We have a lot of respect for the teams on the other side, but at the same time it's all about ourselves."

Earlier this playoff season, Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog brightly considered the speak-plenty-but-say-nothing strategy of the postseason. 

"After a little bit you become extremely boring and predictable," he admitted with a laugh. "People on the outside of a dressing room and series might wonder why we don't give any details, why aren't doing this or that. 

"You try to use your vocabulary as well as you possibly can, but it can be extremely challenging. Really, it's just about making sure we keep our game plan in here and making sure that we don't give anything to (the opponent) that they can take advantage of."

Video: Karlsson on being selected in the Expansion Draft

On that front, the Golden Knights and Capitals were champions on Sunday. 

"What matters is (Monday)," Engelland said. "Guys have been itching to get going all week. It seems like forever since we've played. Let's get out there and get back to doing what we know."

For the Capitals and Golden Knights, action will speak more loudly than the words they've grown weary of speaking.

***

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