LAS VEGAS -- There was a sense of accomplishment, as well as unfinished business, for the Vegas Golden Knights as they gathered for the 2018 Stanley Cup Final Media Day at T-Mobile Arena on Sunday.
Game 1 of the best-of-7 series against the Washington Capitals is here Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
"This is what you play for," said Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt, who played for the Capitals last season before being selected by Vegas in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. "At the end of the day, you look at your career and you look where everything started from the very beginning.
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"You see where we have kind of grown together as a group here. I think it means a lot (considering) where every guy has come from. From [general manager] George [McPhee] all the way down the line. You have everybody in similar positions as we are as players and that is what makes our team special."
The Golden Knights came together faster than anyone expected this season and few, if any, picked them to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I'm happy that we were able to prove a lot of people wrong," said goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who has a 1.68 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in the playoffs. "We have a great bunch of guys, great chemistry in the room, and this is a great run so far."
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Vegas went 51-24-7 (109 points) in the regular season, winning the Pacific Division while shattering NHL expansion records. In the playoffs, it swept the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference First Round, defeated the San Jose Sharks in six games in the second round, and the Winnipeg Jets in five games in the conference final.
"All of a sudden, you are sitting here and answering questions about the Stanley Cup Final," said defenseman Luca Sbisa, who has two assists in seven playoff games. "It's been an incredible ride. I have to pinch myself. Sometimes it hasn't kicked in. It's been crazy and a lot of fun."
The journey is far from finished. Vegas knows it has to win four more games, against a very good Capitals team, to claim the Stanley Cup that sat a few feet from where the players conducted their interviews.
"This is a big deal being in the Stanley Cup Final, but you can't let the emotion get to you," said forward James Neal, who played in the 2017 Cup Final with the Nashville Predators. "There's going to be a lot of focus on you, a lot of focus on our team. Let's try to work through it and do everything we can to win, and we can look back on everything later and see what we did for this city and what we did for each other and how we won. I think just staying in the moment and enjoying it is the biggest thing."
Staying in the moment won't be easy, but it is Vegas' mantra.
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"It's nice to get through all this today and not think too much about anything else but the game tomorrow," said forward David Perron. "We need to make sure that when we step on the ice we have our heads clear and are ready to play our game and not think too much about the end result, but more game by game."
In 17 days or less, either the Golden Knights or Capitals will claim the Cup, the dramatic end to a season that, for Vegas, started with so much uncertainty.
"You dream about this as a kid," Sbisa said. "At certain times in your career, it seems so far away. When I got picked up by Vegas, I definitely didn't expect to be here at the start of the year. I would have told people to pump the breaks. But as the season went on and as we grew as a team, it seemed like a possibility.
"We took it one day at a time, one series at a time, and now we are four wins away from hoisting the best trophy in sports."
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