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Stanley Cup Final | Golden Knights vs. Capitals

Over The Boards

Mailbag: Turnovers could decide Stanley Cup Final

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the May 30 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday throughout the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

In the Stanley Cup Final, we keep hearing about why each team is going to win if they can do this or that. Can you tell us why each team is going to lose? -- @briantodd34

Simple: turnovers. Not to mention goaltending, which was questionable in Game 1. 

The Washington Capitals had two turnovers turn into goals against. Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby allowed five goals on 33 shots, the most he has given up since Feb. 17. Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury wasn't much better, with four goals allowed on 28 shots. But the two plays I want to focus on are the turnovers that led to Vegas goals.

Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller pinched on the power play in the first period and kept the puck in against Capitals forward Chandler Stephenson, who has to make a harder play up the wall to get it out. Vegas forward Erik Haula retrieved the puck and got it back up to Miller, who walked in from the point and shot past Holtby to give Vegas a 1-0 lead 7:15 into the first period. Similarly, before Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore set up forward Tomas Nosek's game-winning goal at 9:44 of the third period, he kept the puck in at the left point when Washington forward Devante Smith-Pelly failed to clear it. The result was the Capitals going into scramble mode, and Theodore was able to thread his pass to Nosek for a one-timer in tight on the right side. That's a pass that should never get through but did.

Flip it around: On Washington center Nicklas Backstrom's goal at 15:23 of the first period, the Golden Knights had a chance to get the puck out, couldn't do it, and six seconds later it was in the back of the net.

Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt said before the series he thinks the team that has fewer turnovers will win it. Washington forward T.J. Oshie uttered a similar sentiment about puck management. And we all know how important goaltending is. Those are the biggest determining factors.

Video: Jamie Hersch wraps up Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

 

People are arguing that having an expansion team in the Stanley Cup Final makes the NHL look bad. What's your response? And how important are optics anyway? -- @StanfordJer

Anyone trying to make that argument is losing sight of the bigger picture. Yes, the Golden Knights had favorable expansion draft rules. Yes, they took advantage of teams in vulnerable positions and certainly did some excellent scouting to find value and talent teams either missed completely or were just willing to part with. That's on the other NHL general managers and scouting departments. If anything, though, it proves the League's talent pool is deeper than anyone previously figured it was. That's not bad. That's terrific.

But most importantly, the NHL is in the entertainment business. That's the goal. Entertain. Get people to watch. Get people to fall in love with the game, the League, the sport. Get them to love it so much, they'll buy merchandise, buy tickets, become lifelong fans. How can anyone not be entertained and energized by what we've seen from Vegas throughout this season and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and especially in Game 1? The entertainment has been off-the-charts awesome. 

Las Vegas has become a great hockey town. From the crowds to the energy in the building to the pregame show and the introductions with the players skating onto the ice through the Knights helmet to the action on the ice, it has been everything any sports fan should want and more. Purists get a great brand of hockey. Everyone gets a great brand of entertainment. It's a wonderful show. 

Game 1 was my first in-arena experience for a game at T-Mobile Arena. I was blown away. I don't know how anyone in the arena or watching on TV really can say otherwise.

Video: Breaking down William Karlsson's goal in Game 1

 

What do the Colorado Avalanche do in the offseason to make a deeper run next season? -- @vsartore85

The Avalanche need to build up their defensemen to become harder to play against. In addition, they must figure out if goaltender Semyon Varlamov is part of their future. He is injury-prone and he has one year remaining on his contract. Trading him might be difficult, but I think they need to start thinking about a replacement. I'm thinking about goalies who could become No. 1s soon and need an opportunity, Philipp Grubauer of the Capitals, Joonas Korpisalo of the Columbus Blue Jackets or Malcolm Subban of the Golden Knights. 

But most importantly, Colorado needs to get deeper at defensemen. I think it can survive with Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Samuel Girard and Nikita Zadorov as a top four, but if they add another top-four caliber defenseman it would give coach Jared Bednar options he didn't really have this season. Even a middle-to-bottom pair veteran would be an upgrade. Beefing up the D will help the Avalanche beef up their chances to get back in the playoffs.

 

Are the New Jersey Devils in need of a goal scorer or a top big defenseman? -- @Quikzs

Defenseman. The Devils have Will Butcher and Sami Vatanen, who should be locks to be in the top four next season. Andy Greene is a valuable player, but at 36 years old and with a lot of miles on his skates, it might be time to start transitioning the captain to a lesser role on the third pair instead of playing him as much as they did this season (21:07 per game, including 3:14 on the penalty kill). Damon Severson has had his ups and downs and was a healthy scratch at the start of the playoffs, but he's 23 years old and you don't give up on a player like him, especially after signing him to a six-year, $25 million contract (average annual value $4.167 million) prior to this season. That also doesn't mean he's a lock to be in the top four. He must play his way back in. 

The point is New Jersey needs more of a lock to fill out their top-four depth. It would be ideal for the Devils to begin next season with Greene or Severson, or both, on the third pair because of the addition of one or two defensemen.

 

New Minnesota Wild general manager Paul Fenton is inheriting a coach, team and front office staff from Chuck Fletcher. What does he need to do to have a successful draft in his first year as GM considering owner Craig Leipold's mandate was tweaks, not rebuild? -- @Ser_Rob0TroN

It's not about the 2018 NHL Draft for Fenton. It's about creating the culture he wants, finally creating an identity for the Wild. 

Honestly, what is the Wild's identity? They're not a fast team. They're not a team that's overly hard to play against. They're not a team that will run you through the wall. But they're not a bad team. They win games. They have quality players. They're good enough to make the playoffs. 

But that's the problem. They need a kick in the pants. They need to get faster. They need to get deeper at center. They need forwards Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter to become impactful on a consistent basis. If they can't, trade them. Fenton must put his imprint on the team. It's not going to happen overnight and it's not going to happen with one quality draft. Minnesota doesn't have to rebuild, but it needs more than roster tweaks.

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