NHL Playoffs 2018: Washington Capitals Are The New Favorites To Win The Stanley Cup


Braden Holtby has helped the Capitals in their run towards their first potential championship.Braden Holtby has helped the Capitals in their run towards their first potential championship.Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

The Washington Capitals are at the precipice of a Stanley Cup championship for the first time in team history.

The Capitals started competing in the NHL in 1974-75, and longtime observers of the league will remember that Washington started off as one of the worst franchises North American Sports history. The Caps were 8-67-5 in that first season for 21 points. Their .131 winning percentage was significantly worse than that of the 1962 New York Mets (.250), a team that is often considered to be the worst in sports history.


Washington struggled for years, but the Capitals eventually became a competitive team in the Eastern Conference. However, they have never known playoff success.

They have made one trip to the Stanley Cup Final in their history prior to this year, and they were swept by a powerful Detroit Red Wings team in 1998.

The Capitals have known little besides postseason frustration, and much of that has come at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins. When the Pens won the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017, they eliminated Washington in the second round both years.

But the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs have seen a reversal of fortune for the Capitals. Instead of letting themselves and their fans down by giving away leads, they have rallied from deficits to win multiple playoff series.

They trailed the Columbus Blue Jackets, Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning but came back to win all three of those series.

After dropping the Stanley Cup Final opener to the Vegas Golden Knights, Washington has won three straight games and is in a position to skate around with the Stanley Cup after Game 5 on Thursday night.

While the Capitals will face the challenge of beating the Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, head coach Barry Trotz's charges appear ready for the challenge.

They are going to approach this potential championship game by taking the same mindset they have had for every other clash.

"I think we just have to prepare the same way that's given us success," goalie Braden Holtby said, per Dan Rosen of NHL.com. "Focus on what you're going to do individually to contribute to the team. Remind yourself to get that feeling back where you feel you're at your best. Rely on your routines, your training, your experience to realize it's just another hockey game."

Evgeny Kuznetsov is a contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy.Evgeny Kuznetsov is a contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy.Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

The Caps have gotten big-time performances from Holtby (2.13 goals-against average, .923 save percentage), superstar Alex Ovechkin (14 goals, 12 assists) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (12 goals, 19 assists). If all three perform well, the Golden Knights will have a difficult time beating the Capitals.

The two teams will face off at 8 p.m. ET, and NBC will televise the game.

The Golden Knights are -143 favorites (wager $143 to win $100) to win Game 5 and remain alive in the series, while the Capitals are +129 underdogs (wager $100 to win $129), per OddsShark.

Prior to the past three games, the Golden Knights had known nothing but success in their initial foray into the NHL's postseason. They had a 13-3 record after the Stanley Cup Final opener, and their success had been based on the stellar play of Marc-Andre Fleury in goal and the production of Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith and William Karlsson.

The Caps have solved Fleury and kept the Golden Knights' big line in check. Despite those issues, Vegas forward Alex Tuch says the Golden Knights still believe in themselves.

"I think we proved a lot of people wrong," Tuch said, per Nicholas J. Cotsonika of NHL.com. "We've been a really resilient group. Even if we've hit a little bit of a slump, it's something where we come out of it even stronger. We've been able to win three games in a row in a series, actually four, twice. So I think we can do it to Washington."

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"Nobody's quitting." – Marc-Andre Fleury says the Golden Knights are ready for Game 5. #StanleyCup https://t.co/8Bl7BFijc6



The Caps have plenty of momentum and they are a confident bunch. They know they are playing for a chance to gain championship status for the first time in their history.

Washington appears to have the expansion team's number. But Vegas has been a hard-nosed team throughout the playoffs, so expect to see the Golden Knights return to a formula that has been successful for them.

Look for a strong game from Fleury and for his teammates to score the first goal of the game. That will give Vegas the momentum, and while they will still be in a hole, they will send the series back to Washington for Game 6.

The Golden Knights win the game on home ice.

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Source : https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2779919-nhl-stanley-cup-final-2018-capitals-vs-golden-knights-game-5-odds-predictions

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