The series began on May 28, 2018 with the potential seventh game to be held on June 13, 2018.
This is the first Finals series since 2007 where neither team had previously won the Stanley Cup and the third consecutive year in which a Western Conference team made their Finals debut.
Path to the FinalsEdit
This is Washington's second Finals appearance; the Capitals were swept in four games by the Detroit Red Wings in 1998.
The Capitals did not make many off season transactions (with the exception of signing forward Devante Smith-Pelly).
The team was conservative during the trade deadline. Wanting to make a Stanley Cup run with the core players that they already had, they only acquired defensemen Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks and Jakub Jerabek from the Montreal Canadiens.
The Capitals finished the regular season with 105 points (49–26–7), winning their division.
Right winger and team captain Alexander Ovechkin was the winner of this season's Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy, leading the league with 49 regular-season goals. Kuznetsov led the team in assists with 56.
In the first round of playoffs, Washington came back from a 2–0 series deficit to win four in a row to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets in six games.
The Capitals then won a 4–2 series against their division rival and two-time defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins, whom they had lost to during the past two playoffs.
Washington then defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games, winning game seven on the road for only the second time in franchise history and first since 2012.
Vegas Golden KnightsEdit
Vegas became the first expansion team since the 1967–68 St. Louis Blues to make the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season.
Entering the season, the Golden Knights were long shots to make the postseason, let alone the Final with sources like Deadspin and Newsweek predicting that they were going to be terrible.
However, the team ended up enjoying one of the strongest debut seasons for an expansion team in North American professional sports history.
Las Vegas was awarded as the NHL's 31st franchise on June 22, 2016, to begin play for the 2017–18 season.
On April 13, 2017, the team announced the hiring of their inaugural head coach, Gerard Gallant.
The team participated in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft on June 21, 2017 selecting an available player from all of the other 30 NHL teams.
Some notable selections included goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who had won three Stanley Cups as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, winger James Neal from the Nashville Predators and Jonathan Marchessault from the Florida Panthers. Fleury was left exposed by the Penguins because of the emergence of Matt Murray.
The Panthers, who had salary cap issues, traded Reilly Smith to the Golden Knights in exchange for Vegas selecting Marchessault.
The team started winning, despite Fleury being injured for most of the first months of the season. They relied on four other goaltenders while their starter was injured.
Instead of being sellers trying to unload players with one-year contracts by the trade deadline, Vegas became surprise buyers, acquiring Ryan Reaves from the Penguins and Tomas Tatar from the Detroit Red Wings.
Following that achievement, on March 31st, Vegas became the first modern-era expansion team from any of the four major sports and the first NHL team since the 1926–27 New York Rangers to win their division in their inaugural season (excluding the 1967–68 Philadelphia Flyers, as all teams in the West Division that year were expansion teams).
The Golden Knights ended up finishing the regular season with 109 points (51–24–7).
In the playoffs, Vegas swept the Los Angeles Kings in four games, defeated the San Jose Sharks in six games, and eliminated the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference Finals in five games. This is the third straight year that a Western Conference team is making its first trip to the finals.
With Vegas' trip to the 2018 Finals, a brand-new team in the league has now reached the Stanley Cup Finals every 50 years dating back to 1918.
The Toronto Arenas reached the 1918 Stanley Cup Finals and won the Cup, but this was the first year of the new NHL (after every team except the Toronto Blueshirts left the National Hockey Association).
The St. Louis Blues reached the 1968 Stanley Cup Finals and got swept by the Montreal Canadiens, but this was a year in which six brand-new expansion teams all entered the league at the same time and were all placed in the same division and the winner of that West Division would face the winner of the East Division.
As such, 2018 was the first of these three occurences where a team in their inaugural season wasn't guaranteed a chance to reach the finals beforehand.
Vegas Golden KnightsEdit
TV and RadioEdit
In Canada, the series is being broadcast by CBC Television (through "Hockey Night in Canada" as produced by Sportsnet through a brokerage agreement) in English, and TVA Sports in French.
In the United States, the Finals are split between NBC (Games 1, 4 and 5-7 if necessary) and NBCSN (Games 2 and 3).