One team has waited 44 years to win a Stanley Cup.
Another team has waited one year to do the same.
Which one do you think will be the sentimental favorite when the Big Show gets underway Monday night?
In all likelihood, it will be that freshman squad, the Vegas Golden Knights.
Well, first there’s the novelty of having an expansion team win the whole shooting match in its very first year of operation.
People made a big deal out of it when the Flyers won the Cup in their SEVENTH year of existence in 1974.
And a case could be made for teams like the Islanders, who took home the ultimate prize in 1980, some eight years after they started operations.
So imagine the fascination if Lord Stanley’s coveted hardware is paraded down the Strip on some cloudless afternoon in mid-June.
The whole North American continent will be rubbing their eyes and wondering if they’re dreaming the whole thing.
That leaves us with the Washington Capitals, a franchise which has been a contender many times over the past decades but has never seemed to get over the hump.
Maybe this is the year. Alexander Ovechkin certainly deserves hockey’s greatest achievement before he calls it a career and this might be the last serious chance he gets.
Out on the ice, it looks like a pretty even matchup.
Goaltending, as usual, is the prime focal point and both teams seem to have better-than-average talent at this spot.
The Caps’ Braden Holtby didn’t finish the regular season with a flourish and actually was on the bench for opening night against Columbus in the first round.
But he’s been getting better and better as the playoffs continue, highlighted by a pair of shutouts over Tampa Bay in Games 6 and 7 of the conference finals.
At the other end of the rink, veteran Marc-Andre Fleury – a three-time Stanley Cup winner – is showing his old team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, that there’s still gas left in the tank.
As for Vegas’ overall success this season, people sound surprised that an expansion team could do so well in the regular campaign and then knock out Los Angeles, San Jose and Winnipeg in the postseason.
Yet when you think about it, this wasn’t just a squad made up of rejects from 30 teams, it was an All-Star team of the 10th-best players from around the NHL.
This is a far cry from years back when teams like Columbus entered the league and had to settle for the 15th-best players.
Look at the numbers: William Karlsson was a plus-50. James Neal, a winner with Pittsburgh, had 25 goals and six game-winners. And Fleury could wind up winning his fourth Cup.
The Golden Knights have home-ice advantage. Their pressure attack basically shut down the high-powered offenses of the Kings, the Sharks and the Jets.
The Caps do have veteran experience with the likes of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and defenseman John Carlson.
But ultimately, as they say, defense wins championships. So we are picking the Golden Knights to prevail in six games.
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