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Stanley Cup Final

McPhee played major role in Capitals, Golden Knights reaching Cup Final

Vegas general manager drafted much of Washington core

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

TAMPA -- When the Washington Capitals play the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS), it'll be the third time they've faced each other.

But they'll be very familiar with the man who built the Golden Knights.

 

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

 

Vegas general manager George McPhee had the same job with Washington from 1997-2014. And the Capitals drafted by McPhee are looking forward to the reunion.

"It's a little special actually because of him," center Nicklas Backstrom said. "He was here for a long time and he drafted all of us. So it will be a great challenge and I can't wait for it."

Backstrom, the No. 4 pick of the 2006 NHL Draft, is one of 13 players on the Capitals roster that McPhee picked. The others are left wing Alex Ovechkin (No. 1, 2004), defenseman John Carlson (No. 27, 2008), goaltender Braden Holtby (No. 93, 2008), defenseman Dmitry Orlov (No. 55, 2009), center Evgeny Kuznetsov (No. 26, 2010), goaltender Philipp Grubauer (No. 112, 2010), center Travis Boyd (No. 177, 2011), center Chandler Stephenson (No. 77, 2012), right wing Tom Wilson (No. 16, 2012), defenseman Christian Djoos (No. 195, 2012), left wing Andre Burakovsky (No. 23, 2013) and defenseman Madison Bowey (No. 53, 2013).

The Capitals won seven division titles and went to the Stanley Cup Final in 1998 during McPhee's tenure. After he was named Vegas general manager July 13, 2016, McPhee constructed the Golden Knights through the NHL Expansion Draft. They won the Pacific Division with 109 points (51-24-7) and have rolled through the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They swept the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference First Round, defeated the San Jose Sharks in six games in the second round and eliminated the Winnipeg Jets in five games in the conference final.

Video: George McPhee on Vegas going to the Stanley Cup Final

"They did a great job," said Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who coached the Nashville Predators in their inaugural season (1998-99). "They've been galvanized as a group, There's nothing tighter than that first-year group because there's no preconceived notion. Leadership's not in place, nobody knows where to live, all those things are galvanizing. And they're deep. They're probably the most veteran team still playing in the playoffs. But they've done a fabulous job."

The Capitals and Golden Knights played twice in the regular season; Vegas won 3-0 at T-Mobile Arena on Dec. 23, and 4-3 at Capital One Arena on Feb. 4.

"They're a real good team, a real hard-working team," Carlson said. "Obviously their goalie [Marc-Andre Fleury] is playing great and they work together. They work together really well and kind of attack you with five guys. Kind of like the last three teams we faced. It's going to be a tall task but I have confidence and faith in this group and what we're capable of."

The Capitals are going to their second Cup Final in 20 years. The Golden Knights are going in their inaugural season. McPhee had a large role in building both. It may not be the matchup most expected when the playoffs began but it nevertheless seems fitting.

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