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5 Keys: Capitals at Golden Knights, Game 1

Holtby aims to continue strong play for Washington; Vegas needs to win 5-on-5 battle

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer


8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

Stanley Cup Final Game 1


LAS VEGAS -- The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will meet in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena on Monday.


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


Washington is in the Cup Final for the second time in its history. The Capitals lost to the Detroit Red Wings in four games in 1998.

"Our city right now is very excited, very passionate," Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said.

Vegas is the third team in NHL history to reach to the Cup Final in its inaugural season, joining the Toronto Arenas (1918) and St. Louis Blues (1968), but is the first to win three rounds in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to reach the Cup Final.

"Hopefully, we can keep going for four more," Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said.

Here are 5 keys for Game 1:


1. Stay calm, carry on

It's easy to get swept up in the Cup Final, especially if it's your first time, as it is for all but three players in the series (Fleury, Golden Knights forward James Neal and Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik). 

The key is to stay the way each team appeared Sunday at its practice and session at Media Day. It didn't appear that the moment was becoming too big for either team, at least not yet.

"We're very relaxed," Capitals forward T.J. Oshie said. "Out at practice, we were the same old Caps, joking around and shooting pucks at each other when guys were trying to skate around. We're relaxed but we're hungry."

Video: TBL@WSH, Gm6: Oshie opens the scoring with PPG


2. Speed it up, slow them down

The Capitals and Golden Knights want to play fast. But to do so, each must slow down the other one, especially through the neutral zone.

The Capitals talked about how they need to stay above the Golden Knights. Vegas is going to have to do the same because each team can burn the other in transition.

"Clog it up," Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "They're a fast team and you don't want to let them off to the races, so slow it down without the puck and speed it up with it."

Video: Niskanen on Capitals' excitement for Game 1, momentum


3. Turnover battle

Part of playing fast and getting transition opportunities is the ability to force turnovers. Vegas leads the NHL in the playoffs in takeaways (159), and Washington is third (136).

"I think they're a very opportunistic team," Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt said. "When I played there (from 2013-17), that was something we were very good at, very opportunistic. We just need to play our methodical game. 

"I think the biggest thing is going to be turnovers in this series. Whatever team commits less turnovers is going to win the series."

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm6: Schmidt roofs wrist shot past Jones


4. Fleury vs. Holtby

Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, who is 12-6 with a 2.04 goals-against average, a .924 save percentage and two shutouts in the playoffs, has an active shutout streak of 159:27.

Video: WSH@TBL, Gm7: Holtby stops 29 shots for shutout

Fleury, who is 12-3 with a 1.68 GAA, a .947 save percentage and four shutouts in the playoffs, has allowed six goals in the past four games (all wins).

Video: Is Fleury the front-runner for the Conn Smythe?


5. 5-on-5 scoring

Vegas has been dominant at 5-on-5 in the playoffs, outscoring the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets by a combined 30-14 in 15 games. It has been the difference for the Golden Knights, especially since they've been outscored 10-9 on special teams.

Washington has been excellent at 5-on-5 as well, outscoring the Columbus Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning 39-29, including 15-8 against the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final.


Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana -- Nicklas Backstrom -- T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky -- Lars Eller -- Brett Connolly

Chandler Stephenson -- Jay Beagle -- Devante Smith-Pelly

Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen

Michal Kempny -- John Carlson

Brooks Orpik -- Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

Scratched: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek, Shane Gersich, Travis Boyd, Nathan Walker, Pheonix Copley

Injured: None


Golden Knights projected lineup

Jonathan Marchessault -- William Karlsson -- Reilly Smith

James Neal -- Erik Haula -- David Perron

Ryan Carpenter -- Cody Eakin -- Alex Tuch

Tomas Nosek -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Ryan Reaves

Brayden McNabb -- Nate Schmidt

Shea Theodore -- Deryk Engelland

Luca Sbisa -- Colin Miller

Marc-Andre Fleury

Maxime Lagace

Scratched: Jon Merrill, Brad Hunt, Oscar Lindberg, Tomas Tatar

Injured: William Carrier (undisclosed), Malcolm Subban (undisclosed)


Status report

Carrier hasn't played since Game 5 against San Jose. ... Fleury and Orpik are the only players in the series who have won the Stanley Cup. They were teammates when the Penguins won it in 2009 (Fleury also won in 2016 and 2017 with Pittsburgh). ... Neal was in the 2017 Cup Final with the Nashville Predators, who lost to the Penguins in six games. ... Washington is 8-2 on the road in the playoffs, two wins from tying the NHL record of 10 wins in a single postseason, held by the New Jersey Devils (1995 and 2000), Calgary Flames (2004) and Kings (2012). ... The Golden Knights were 2-0-0 against the Capitals in the regular season, winning 3-0 at home on Dec. 23 and 4-3 in Washington on Feb. 4.



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