The Capitals have a lot to celebrate, but wanted to acknowledge their competitors first.
The Stanley Cup champions took out a full page in the Las Vegas Review-Journal to congratulate the Golden Knights on a competitive run in the championship series and a historic first season in the league.
“Congratulations to the Vegas Golden Knights on the most successful inaugural season in the history of professional sports,” the ad read. “World class ownership, front office, coaching staff and people. A magnificent team of talented, hard-working players and stars. A fantastic venue filled with passionate, loud and proud fans.
“It was an honor to compete against you in the Stanley Cup Final. We are truly VEGAS STRONG.”
The Washington Capitals are up 3-1 in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, but the Vegas Golden Knights are back home at T-Mobile Arena for Game 5. We checked in with our panel to answer the biggest questions — and get their pick on the game.
The Knights must ______ to win Game 5.
Greg Wyshynski, senior hockey writer: Create an ounce of doubt in the minds of the Capitals. You can count on one hand the number of times it felt like the Capitals didn’t have control of this series since Game 2. In previous rounds, the Golden Knights stunned their opponents with speed and scoring and, most importantly, a hole from which those opponents had to dig. In 10 of their 15 games preceding the Stanley Cup Final, the Knights held a lead after two periods. They won each time. They didn’t lead entering the third in this series’ first four games. “When we’re playing our game, we’re putting doubt in other teams’ minds,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. Considering the Capitals’ history with 3-1 playoff leads, that’s essential.
Emily Kaplan, national hockey reporter: Tighten up on defense and clog shooting lanes. Most lopsided stat from the Final: In the Capitals’ three wins, they have a 68-25 advantage in blocked shots. Other than that, the Golden Knights should start the game exactly as they did in Game 4, buzzing with energy. Several Vegas players said Game 4 was their best performance of the series. (I agree.) Keep at it, and don’t get discouraged — and pray that the hockey gods even out the bounces.
Chris Peters, hockey prospects writer: Dictate the pace of the game and own the puck more consistently. The Golden Knights have had stretches, even during the past few games, when they looked like the better team. If they can use their speed to keep the pressure on Washington’s blue line, test Braden Holtby and keep the puck at the other end of the ice as much as possible, they’re going to give themselves a chance. This team has thrived on everyone’s contributions, and it will need every last guy playing an attacking brand of hockey that made it one of the NHL’s best stories in years.
Victoria Matiash, fantasy hockey analyst: Erupt with a first-period effort similar to what we saw in Game 4. They were the better team through 20 minutes. Fourteen times out of 15, James Neal doesn’t miss that open net — which would set an entirely different tone for the rest of the period — and the Knights would head back to the dressing up one or more instead of down 3-0.
Ben Arledge, Insider NHL editor: Attack early and often. The crowd is the Knights’ best asset in Game 5, and you can’t lose it with a sluggish start. If Vegas can pot one in the opening minutes and set the tone, it’ll be in good shape. Start flat and let Washington play its game, though, and it will be a long night. From the puck drop, the Knights need to be the better team. Even if the game starts 30 minutes later than expected again so Panic! at the Disco can play a full set, the Golden Knights can’t afford to show up late.
What was the turning point for the Capitals’ season?
Wyshynski: The most important game of the Capitals’ season, and perhaps the Alex Ovechkin era up until this point, was Game 6 of the second round, when they eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins. Please recall that this was the game in which they were without center Nicklas Backstrom and winger Andre Burakovsky to injury, and Tom Wilson to suspension. A Game 7 seemed inevitable. Instead, the Capitals got a goal created by Alex Chiasson and Nathan Walker, neither of whom have seen a second of ice time in the Final, and the game winner created by Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. The unburdening of the weight of previous playoff failures — the Capitals defeated the Penguins for just the second time in 11 series in franchise history — has propelled them to one win from the Cup.
Kaplan: What’s different about this team — as opposed to the many excellent Alex Ovechkin-led teams over the past 13 years — is its success in the playoffs. So I have to point to Game 3 of the first round. Down 2-0 in the series — after squandering regulation leads to lose in overtime — Washington finally got the bounce it needed in the form of an ugly double-overtime goal. This gave the Capitals the confidence to thwart their biggest foes, the Penguins, in the second round, and the rest is — they hope — history.
Peters: I’m going with the same series as Emily, but I’m going to go with the emphatic close-out in Game 6 against the Blue Jackets. With the Caps, no one is comfortable until a series is over. In that game, Holtby got a lot of work as the Blue Jackets just kept pouring it on, finishing with 38 shots on goal. Each time Columbus seemed to have life, the Capitals would snatch it away. That game was eye-opening and showed that this team could close, even if it was still a little hard to believe given the club’s recent postseason history.
Matiash: Wedging myself between Emily and Chris, I felt the tide truly turn in the Capitals’ favor in Game 4 against the Blue Jackets. After nailing a crucial overtime win in Game 3 to draw back into the series, Washington left little to question with a dominating 4-1 victory in Game 4. Ovechkin was terrific. Kuznetsov racked up four points. Holtby was nearly impenetrable. Although the series was now tied 2-2, there was already a sense of looking forward to the next round, and — Penguins or no Penguins — beyond.
A year ago, this team didn’t even have a team, and now this team will have a chance to win sport’s toughest trophy.
This is why the NHL rocks. Anything can happen. Anything just did.
By beating the Jets 2-1 in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday, Vegas continued to beat the odds. The Knights were a 500-1 shot last October. The Knights just became the first team to earn a spot in the championship round.
Top that, NBA. Top that, any major U.S. sports league. Talk about a miracle on ice. This championship possibility would be all the rage if the NHL mattered in the U.S. If only Tim Tebow skated. But no matter. This is historic. An expansion team outside of an all-expansion setup making the championship round just doesn’t happen, except in an NHL known for regularly scheduled upsets.
The NHL is the anti-NBA, and thank goodness for that. The NBA is as predictable as it gets. The NBA drags you through seven months that don’t mean anything because it was always going to be Warriors-Rockets and Cavaliers-Celtics, and here we are and there they are. Is that what you want?
I’ll take drama. I’ll take the unexpected. I’ll take the inexplicable and the insane. The cherished randomness of the NHL demands that you watch. Sports charm us with moments we’ve never witnessed. This is that. This one of the big reasons we watch.
Some people, however, believe the Knights are living out one of the more embarrassing stories in sports history because the Knights have made it look easy this season and because their success indicts the NHL’s diluted product borne of a hard salary cap and soft-headed GMs.
If it was that easy to win 51 games, then the Blackhawks would’ve done it. If the league was that diluted, then the Hawks should swap leagues with the Regina Pats. The more you hear people rip the league for such a spectacle, the more you diminish whatever Hawks dynasty talk you spewed.
This isn’t embarrassment. It’s history. Embarrassment is demanding a new owner fork over $500 million and then sticking the new franchise with a last-place team for five years. The NHL didn’t hose the new guy. The reward for the league and the new owner is one of the biggest and best stories in sports history.
The NHL expansion draft rules were more generous than previously seen, but still, other teams were allowed to protect at least eight skaters (including all players with no-movement clauses), all players with less than three years’ pro experience, and their No. 1 goalie. The Knights managed to acquire speed and talent thanks to general manager George McPhee’s deft handling of the expansion draft. And these pieces of ore and other mixed metals were alchemized into Golden Knights by coach Gerard Gallant, who had been fired by the Panthers and so had a lot in common with his players.
The Knights finished fifth in goals per game and eighth in goals-against per game. Their goal differential of plus-44 was sixth-best in the NHL. That’s playing a team game all over the ice, a point underscored when you realize the Knights went through five goalies this season because of injuries, including one netminder they had to recall from juniors.
In winning the Pacific Division with a 51-24-7 record, the Knights finished 29-10-2 at home, the best record in the Western Conference and second-best in the league. It would appear NHL players didn’t know how to act during a night in Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in the loss column. Stick tap for the Knights’ discipline and smarts on and off the ice.
And for everyone who believes they are riding nothing but home-casino advantage, there’s this: In sweeping the Kings in the first round, eliminating the Sharks in six games in the second and wiping out the Jets in five in the conference finals, the Knights clinched all three series on the road. What happens in Vegas also happens everywhere else.
And now the Knights might get their names etched on the venerable Stanley Cup. It sounds crazy, but it’s as real as four more wins.
Kevin Allen, USA TODAY Sports Published 1:24 p.m. ET May 17, 2018
LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was named a finalist for the NHL’s GM of the year and we don’t need Las Vegas bookmakers to tell us he’s a prohibitive favorite to win the award.
The man has built the best expansion team in professional sports history. The Golden Knights are two wins short of qualifying for the Stanley Cup Final heading into Friday’s Game 4 at T-Mobile Arena (8 p.m, ET, NBC Sports Network). They lead the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 in their Western Conference final series.
The always-gracious McPhee will want to thank those who helped him get here, so we’ve tried to be helpful by filling out “Thank You” cards for him:
Dear Marc-Andre Fleury: Many thanks for your decision to waive your no-trade clause with the Pittsburgh Penguins to allow us to select you in the expansion draft. We wouldn’t be where we are without your goaltending and your presence in the dressing room. Your goaltending has been out of this world and your willingness to promote our team and the game in Las Vegas has helped us grow strong roots in the community. People said you were a classy gentleman and the perfect teammate, but you can’t fully appreciate those traits until you see them up close and personal as we have.
Dear Vegas owner Bill Foley: Thanks for everything, especially the “Golden Knights” nickname and for saying we could make the playoffs in three years and win the Stanley Cup in six. We’re not afraid of high expectations in Vegas.
Dear NHL commissioner Gary Bettman: Thanks for signing off on a more generous player dispersal system for the expansion draft. This should be a model for future expansion in all sports. When you see how this has helped establish our team in Las Vegas, you wonder why we were so hard on past expansion teams. When McDonald’s Corporation awards a new franchise, the company doesn’t insist that it launch with inferior items on the menu. Why did sports leagues do that for so many years?
Dear Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon: Should probably send you a box of chocolates along with this ‘”thank you” for the sweet deal you gave us on Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith. Landing Marchessault to take Smith’s contract off your hands gave us two-thirds of our top line. Forever grateful.
Dear NFL: Thanks for moving slowly on coming to Las Vegas because we’ve been the first plant our flag and win over this incredibly passionate fan base. It’s laughable now that some people believed pro sports wouldn’t work here. Our fan base is electrifying. If you want to know how to ignite them, we can help.
Dear Florida Panthers: Thanks to whoever made the final decision to fire Gerard “Turk” Gallant as coach. (Dale Tallon didn’t have final say at the time). All that matters is Turk – no one calls him Gerard – was available to be our coach. He’s perfect to lead our band of Golden Misfits. He relates to players and he understands the game at a DNA level.
Dear Expendables: Thanks to all of my players who came in with the attitude that their former teams were wrong to make them available to us. William Karlsson went from six goals for the Columbus Blue Jackets to 43 for us. Erik Haula went from 15 goals for the Minnesota Wild to 29. Nate Schmidt went from third-pairing defenseman in Washington to a top defenseman for us.
Dear former Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher: Sorry you had so many skilled players on your roster that you couldn’t protect them all. You were in a difficult position that forced you to give us two quality players (Haula and Alex Tuch) to protect players such as Mathew Dumba and Marco Scandella, etc. P.S. We think Tuch is going to be a force for us.
It’s the one where he’ll be wearing a gold, black and steel gray uniform, perhaps a helmet perched on his head as he settles in front of his vast TV.
This is where he’ll be watching his beloved Vegas Golden Knights hockey team play Game 3 of their Stanley Cup Western Conference finals at T-Mobile Arena against the Winnipeg Jets, the best-of-seven series tied at 1-1, with Harper wondering how much more his heart can take it.
“I get more nervous watching them than anything I’ve ever done in my life,’’ Harper tells USA TODAY Sports, “even playing ball. I don’t get nervous watching my team or when I play at all. I really don’t.
“But when I’m watching them, I get so nervous. I’ll sit on the couch with my wife, going nuts.
The Golden Knights, vying to become the first expansion team in a major sport to win a championship in its inaugural season, and already the first hockey team to reach the playoffs in its first year in nearly 40 years, are just three victories shy of going where nobody in their right mind believed they would reach.
Yes, the Stanley Cup Finals.
Forget the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team; maybe the Golden Knights are the unlikeliest miracle on ice.
No one gave them a prayer this season – an NHL-worst 500-to-1 longshot to win the Stanley Cup – except for this certain 25-year-old who happens to be one of the greatest baseball players in the world, and will soon become rich enough to buy his own casino.
“I’m really not surprised,’’ Harper says. “They’re a great team. There’s a lot of guys on that team that have chips on their shoulders because they got let go on other teams they were playing on.
“Look at us. We’ve got one of the best goalies of all-time in our net in (Marc-Andre) Fleury. He was the leader of that team that won three Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh. If we didn’t have a goalie on our team like that, it would definitely be tough. (Wild Bill) Karlsson is having one of the best years of his career. He has six goals in Columbus last year and now has 43 for us.
“We get (Jonathan) Marchessault from the Panthers, and look at the way he’s been playing. Reilly Smith. That whole front line has been unbelievable. Deryk Engelland and Schmidty (Nate Schmidt) coming from the Caps. James Neal, who was with Pittsburgh and Nashville.
“They’re all just such a great group of guys. Just a bunch of really cool dudes who are fast and quick and put the puck into the net. I could go on and on.’’
The Golden Knights have taken Las Vegas by storm, and, oh, can you tell who has caught hockey fever?
Harper and his wife, Kayla, don’t even have kids yet, but Harper already has chosen the sport he wants them to play.
“I’ve fallen in love with hockey,’’ Harper says. “When we have kids, I want them to play hockey. How awesome would that be? I can’t imagine being on the ice and playing such a cool sport.’’
Harper has become Barry Melrose without the colorful high-fashion outfits, soaking up as much hockey knowledge as he can these days. Do you know any other professional athlete who attended virtually every Golden Knights home game during the winter, wearing their jerseys at every opportunity, and occasionally wearing a helmet watching them on his living room couch?
Do you know any other ballplayer who drops in on their practices, sends dozens of autographed bats with the Golden Knights logo to their locker room, drops the puck against the Washington Caps wearing an Alex Tuch jersey, and is already tentatively planning to see them if they’re playing in the Stanley Cup Finals on a May 24 off day?
“It’s the first team I really had a passion rooting for,’’ says Harper, born and raised in Las Vegas, and, yes, blessed with the ability to ice skate. “Growing up, I didn’t really root for many teams. I always liked the Lakers. Liked Dallas in football.
“But those are all the winning teams. Even baseball, I’d get home and watch the Braves on Turner, or the Cubs on WGN, right after “Full House’’ and “Family Matters.’’
“But now, I can’t get enough of them. I watch them religiously. I love hockey.’’
Who’d ever have imagined that Las Vegas would become a hockey town, with every game sold out? Really, it’s the gateway to the gambling capital of the USA turning into a sports mecca.
Collect $500 million from a rich Las Vegas businessman in exchange for the first new NHL expansion franchise in 17 years.
Divide that money between the NHL’s 30 existing clubs, for a cool cash injection of $16.667 million per team.
Surrender one player to the new franchise in an expansion draft. For that kind of money, general manager George McPhee and his team could even have access to mid-level players. What could possibly be the harm?
We all had a good chuckle when Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley said in 2015 that he wanted to see his team make the playoffs by Year 3 and win a Stanley Cup by Year 8.
Listening to Bill Foley talk hockey in Las Vegas. Says playoffs in 3 yrs, Stanley Cup in 8. Positive man.
He later revised that projection to a Cup in six years. Turns out, that still may have been conservative.
You know the story by now: the Golden Knights won their division, made the playoffs and swept the Los Angeles Kings in their first-round series. On Sunday, they reached the Western Conference Final after recording their fourth shutout win of the playoffs and eliminating the San Jose Sharks.
The favored hashtag now running beside #VegasStrong is #CupIn1.
The Golden Knights’ success is so unprecedented, it’s still difficult to understand how the team can actually be this good. It’s supposed to take years to build a Stanley Cup contender — nurturing top prospects after they’re acquired in the draft, retaining good players with lucrative long-term contracts and supplementing rosters with free agents. Successful teams are supposed to build winning cultures over many years, with veteran leadership groups that keep the dressing room united. History matters.
Nobody argued that McPhee got off to a good start when he anchored the Golden Knights’ roster with three-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from the Pittsburgh Penguins. But Vegas charted its course for the playoffs without him, going 16-8-1 during the 25-game stretch between October and December where Fleury was sidelined with a concussion.
No need to roll the dice with these top ten tips for Sin City.
By Soo Youn
There’s more to Vegas than the Strip —family-friendly activities, unique museums, great art and breathtaking nature. So make memories that don’t have to stay there.
STRIP LIKE A LOCAL
The Strip houses pop culture from high to low. The Crystals mall features two James Turrell installations: one above the monorail platform, the other hidden in the Louis Vuitton store. Meanwhile, the “Lake of Dreams” at the Wynn Hotel uses 5,000 lights for fairy tale shows set against the waterfall. The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art features an impressive collection.
CRASH A WEDDING
What would Vegas be without Elvis and a wedding? Even if it’s not your own, there’s always someone tying the knot at the Graceland Wedding Chapel, or any of the other Elvis-themed wedding venues in town. Take a seat and watch the happy couples coming and going. Did we mention the pink Cadillac?
The Neon Museum showcases the history of Sin City through retired signs. As Tom Wolfe noted, Vegas is “the only town in the world whose skyline is made up neither of buildings, like New York, nor of trees, like Wilbraham, Massachusetts, but signs.” Guided tours are available to walk visitors through the faded glow of history.
EXPLORE A DESERT DREAMSCAPE
The Springs Preserve, an 180-acre kid-friendly palate cleanser, features a botanical garden, museum, galleries, and nature trails. Built around the city’s original water source, the Las Vegas Springs, the preserve is owned and operated by the Las Vegas Valley Water District, hence the emphasis on conservation and sustainable desert living.
SEE QUIRKY SITES
The Mob Museum documents the worlds of Al Capone, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Meyer Lansky, and Whitey Bulger. Upcoming new additions include an exhibition on Prohibition complete with working distillery, a crime lab explaining forensics, and a café. There’s also the National Atomic Testing Museum with a Ground Zero Theater that simulates an atmospheric blast.
HIKE CRIMSON CANYONS
Check out Red Rock Canyon for hiking—26 numbered trails of varying difficulties, to be exact. There’s also plenty of wildlife to observe, mountain biking, scenic drives, stargazing, and camping. Fossils of dinosaurs and early mammals immortalized in the Aztec sandstone are a reminder of whom got there first.
GO ALL NIGHT
Secret Pizza in the Cosmopolitan Hotel has good NYC slices and people-watching, if you’re willing to wait in line. Or explore Fremont Street downtown—there are a slew of karaoke bars, and a three-story waterslide, and shark tank at the Golden Nugget.
In years past, the Consumer Electronics Show could be mistaken for the world’s largest Best Buy, with row upon row of giant, glowing, wall-filling television sets.
TVs still play a big part of the show, though the energy and excitement in Las Vegasthis year is tilted toward smart speakers and intelligent connected devices and the powerful Silicon Valley companies whose technology powers them.
As the doors open today on the world’s largest electronics trade show, the Consumer Technology Association expects that voice computing, artificial intelligence and connectivity will be the dominant themes. That’s reflected on the show floor, where Google will have an outsized presence.
Voice-controlled smart speakers, including the Amazon Echo and Google Home, sold like crazy this past holiday season, with unit sales increasing 279% from a year ago, according to the CTA. The trade group expects similarly stratospheric numbers this year, with unit sales approaching 44 million in the U.S. alone.
The galloping popularity of devices that respond to the sound of our voice will have a ripple effect on the smart-home market, spurring consumers to experiment with a host of new “smart” products — from connected thermostats, WiFi-connected security cameras, smart locks and doorbells and the like.
“These devices are growing rapidly with lots of consumer interest,” said Mike Vorhaus, president of Magid Advisors consultancy. “Overwhelmingly, people want these devices not only as ‘assistants’ but as household safety hubs — alarms, cameras, etc.”
Television manufacturers have been eager to jump on the talk-to-me bandwagon, with Samsung Monday announcing it would bring the Bixby voice assistant now found on its Galaxy phones to its television sets in 2018, and LG opting for an assist from Google Voice.
Beyond televisions, voice assistants are lending an assist to Schlage Sense deadbolts, Whirlpool washers and dryers, and even a mirror that talks back to you (mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?).
The car companies, which in years past figured prominently at the show if largely to highlight aftermarket products, are expected to highlight work with autonomous vehicles. Newcomer Byton unveiled its concept car at the show, a smart car designed by former BMW and Apple executives.
Ford Motor Co. President and CEO Jim Hackett delivers a show-opening keynote this morning, where he is expected to offer an update on plans for self-driving cars. Lyft’s co-founder and president, John Zimmer, will speak at the annual Leaders in Technology dinner Thursday night, a high-profile show event where he’s likely to tout the ride-hailing company’s autonomous efforts.
“Lyft is going to be here in a significant way. That’s really interesting,” said Brent Weinstein, a partner at UTA. “Historically it’s been the car manufacturers and manufacturers of stuff in the cars taking up the oxygen.”