HISTORIC STANLEY CUP FINAL BEGINS TONIGHT IN LAS VEGAS
History will be made tonight when the Golden Knights and Capitals face off at T-Mobile Arena for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final 8 p.m. ET.
Since the Final went to the best-of-seven format in 1939, the team that has won Game 1 has gone on to capture the Stanley Cup 78.2% of the time (61 of 78 series) – including each of the past six years. The Bruins were the last team to rally for a series victory after losing Game 1 of the Final, winning in seven games in 2011.
The expansion Golden Knights are seeking to become the first NHL, MLB, NBA or NFL team to win a championship in its inaugural season – excluding the first year of a league’s existence – since the 1950 Cleveland Browns captured the NFL Championship. The NBA’s Minneapolis Lakers (1948-49) and Baltimore Bullets (1947-48) also won the title in their respective first seasons.
The Capitals are playing in the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history and first time since 1998, when they were swept by the Red Wings (4-0 L).
A free concert headlined by rapper Lil Jon and featuring special guests on Toshiba Plaza, located outside T-Mobile Arena, in Las Vegas will open the Stanley Cup Final. The concert will begin at 3:00 p.m. PT. The concert will be free and open to the public. No ticket will be required to view the performance.
Stanley Cup champion Adam Burish and NHL Network’s Jackie Redmond will host the first episode of Stanley Cup Live, a daily 10-minute show that will be live-streamed on Facebook from Las Vegas and Washington. The live show will be shot in various locations in each host city – with a focus on the pomp and circumstance taking place off the ice – and will debut from Toshiba Plaza following the Lil Jon concert.
PLAYERS FEELING RELAXED HEADING INTO GAME 1
As players made the rounds at Stanley Cup Final Media Day, Ryan Reaves of the Golden Knights and Andre Burakovsky of the Capitals turned the tables to interview their teammates.
Reaves chatted with defensemen Brayden McNabb and Luca Sbisa and grilled forward Alex Tuch on how he came to earn the nickname “The Mayor of Las Vegas.”
Meanwhile, Burakovsky struggled to keep a straight face while interviewing teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov, among others.
KEY CONTRIBUTORS: 2018 STANLEY CUP FINAL
Goaltenders Braden Holtby and Marc-Andre Fleury each carry strong stat-lines into Game 1, while forwards Alex Ovechkin and Jonathan Marchessault are on the brink of record-breaking totals.
Holtby enters his first Stanley Cup Final with an active shutout streak of 159:27 dating to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final. It is the longest such run of his playoff career and 9:45 shy of matching his personal-best during the regular-season (169:12 from Jan. 5-9, 2017).
Fleury gets set for his fifth Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a goal against in a Game 1 on home ice this postseason, following shutouts against the Los Angeles Kings (30 saves) and San Jose Sharks (33 saves). He can become the first goaltender in League history, and eighth player regardless of position, to win the Stanley Cup in consecutive years with different teams.
Ovechkin sits two goals shy of matching the franchise record in a single postseason, set by John Druce in 1990 (14). Ovechkin, who has 607 goals in his regular-season career (1,003 GP), ranks ninth in NHL history with an average of 0.50 goals per game during the playoffs (58 in 116 GP) among players with at least 100 games played.
Marchessault (8-10—18) has tied the NHL record for point by a player with a franchise in its first-ever postseason, pacing Vegas in both goals and points, with linemates Reilly Smith (2-14—16) and William Karlsson (6-7—13) not far behind.
LOOKING BACK AT OTHER FIRST-TIME PLAYOFF TEAMS IN THE STANLEY CUP FINAL
The expansion Golden Knights are the sixth team in NHL history to reach the Stanley Cup Final in their first trip to the playoffs, and just the second to do so in their inaugural season.
The 1917-18 Toronto Arenas captured the Stanley Cup in the NHL’s first season, defeating Pacific Coast Hockey Association’s Vancouver Millionaires in a best-of-five series (3-2).
The 1925-26 Montreal Maroons became the second NHL team to win the Cup in its first-ever playoff appearance, ending their second season in the League by winning a best-of-five series (3-1) against the Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League.
The 1926-27 Boston Bruins reached the Final in their third season, losing to the “confident” Ottawa Senators in a best-of-five series (2-0-2).
The 1967-68 St. Louis Blues defeated the Minnesota North Stars to emerge from the all-expansion West Division to advance to the Stanley Cup Final, where they ultimately lost to the Canadiens in four straight games.
The 1995-96 Florida Panthers were the last NHL club to reach the Final in their first trip to the postseason, falling in four games to the Colorado Avalanche.