FACTS FOR THE FINALS…
The first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals have proven to be very entertaining with lots of interesting storylines. Here are some key facts about this year’s participants in the Stanley Cup Finals:
- There are only three players from both rosters that have previously played in The Finals—Brooks Orpik (Washington), James Neal and Marc-André Fleury (Las Vegas).
- All three of these players played in previous Finals while playing for Pittsburgh.
- Marc-André Fleury has an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup three years in a row.
- The Las Vegas General Manager is George McPhee, he was previously the General Manager for the Washington Capitals.
- George McPhee selected 14 of the players that are currently on Washington’s 25 man roster.
- Brian MacLellan is the General Manager for Washington. He and George McPhee played hockey together in both Canadian Junior and US College.
- While playing together, they won a Canadian National Championship at the Junior level.
- MacLellan was the Assistant General Manager to George McPhee, he took over as General Manager when George was released. Rumour is that the two men have not spoken to each other in over three years. Apparently, they began texting each other once it was determined that they would facing each other in The Finals.
Barry Trotz, coach for Washington, was originally drafted as a player by Washington. He never played for the NHL team, but at a very young age he was asked to coach Washington’s farm team in the AHL in Portland, Maine. From there he went on to coach the Nashville Predators for 15 seasons. Barry has just recently returned to the Washington organization.
- Nate Schmidt, now a Las Vegas defenceman, has played over 200 games with the Washington Capitals. He was selected by Las Vegas from Washington in last June’s expansion draft.
- David Prior is the goaltending coach for the Las Vegas Knights. For 13 seasons he was the goaltending coach for the Washington Capitals. He was the first NHL goaltending coach for the current Washington Capital’s goalies, Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer.
So, clearly there are many personal and professional links between these two teams. With all of the off-ice connections, it’s no surprise that the on-ice action has not disappointed. Game One of The Finals presented us with FOUR different lead changes throughout the game. This is the first time since the late ‘80s that the scoring lead of the game changed so many times. Ten goals in the opening game of The Finals was certainly good news for us “poolies”. The action was not limited to goal scoring either. Game One also featured another controversial body check by Tom Wilson of Washington. Wilson has already been suspending in this year’s play-offs for an illegal hit. This time his hit on Jonathan Marchessault from Vegas was not directed to the head but was certainly when Marchessault did not have possession and control of the puck. Correctly, the Referees identified this as a minor penalty for Interference. The officials did not immediately assess this penalty, it was the result of a brief conversation between all four officials that brought them to this result. Video evidence proved that this body check delivered by Wilson was not targeting the head or attempt to injure his opponent, it was merely too late, thus Interference was the correct call.
Game Two did not produce as many goals, final score 3-2, but there still was plenty of action. For the Officials, the objective was to make sure that players did not use their sticks and that hits were delivered only when a player had possession and control of the puck. This focus from the Officials created a number of penalties being assessed for interference and cross checking. You can expect this Officating focus to carry over to Game Three, the key for the teams will be to adjust to a tighter penalty standard and remain disciplined.
This game also featured a major body check, this time from Brayden McNabb of Vegas to Evgeny Kuznetsov of Washington. It certainly could be argued that this should have been called a penalty for Elbowing. McNabb did jump when he delivered the body check and potentially there was contact with the head. However, the injury that Kuznetsov suffered was related to his hand/wrist. Kuznetsov did not return to Game Two and is listed as an injured player for the third game of the series. What is unfortunate for Washington, and us “poolies” is that Kuznetsov has recorded points in 11 straight play-off games. The main topic of conversation after the second game was this save by Washington goaltender Braden Holtby:
This save occurred late in the 3rd period with Las Vegas trailing by one goal. At the time, Las Vegas was dominating the game and if this puck had gone into the net, it is safe to say that the momentum of the game would have changed. Only time will tell if this save was the key moment of the series.
So many intriguing stories in this year’s Finals, both on and off the ice. For hockey fans it’s great to see that the action in The Finals is just as intense as it was in the first few rounds of the play-offs. Right from the first round we have seen hard hitting, high scoring hockey games — the way that play-off hockey should be played!
Former NHL Referee #18