34 Thoughts on First Two Games of the Cup Final

1. The only way Alex Ovechkin can be a better Caps captain is by being a twin. Since that’s impossible he’ll be welcomed on Saturday night in Washington for what he is; the most total forward in NHL history.

2. Never has there been a goal-king whose body checks are as hard as his shots.

3. If Game 3 is anything like the first two, we’ve got a heck of a series.

4. A bunch of Nervous Nellies out in Hockeyland are worried that a Vegas Cup win would be detrimental to the NHL. They argue that it would be too much, too soon for an infant franchise.

5. Nonsense. The Golden Knights Miracle has everybody talking about it because Gerard Gallant‘s team presently is enacting THE greatest hockey story ever told. Speaking of miracles on ice, my son, Simon, says, “Vegas is a latter-day NHL version of Uncle Sam’s 1980 Olympic team.”

6. And there’s no runner-up.

7. Sure Arizona, Buffalo, Columbus, Florida, Minnesota and Nashville — just to name a few Never-Cup towns — have a right to be jealous. Even Toronto has suffered without a Cup Final appearance since Expansion in 1967-68. So, what? It’s certainly not George McPhee‘s problem.

8. Among the truly amazing — make that magical — Knight-ly developments be sure to include the No-Names who have become Big-Names.

9. The Maven’s current favorite is Tomas (No Name) Nosek who scored the winning and insurance tallies in Game 1 of the Final. It was the lad’s first multi-goal game and game-winner. And this after 97 NHL contests.

10. Prior to his Vegas overnight stardom, No Nonsense Nosek, The Pin-Up Boy From Pardubice (Czech Republic) was drinking coffee up and down the Red Wings’ system with a grand total of one goal in 17 NHL games.

11. Captured by McPhee in the 2017 Expansion Draft, Nosek’s no-fooling fuselage produced 7-8-15 through 67 games in the regular campaign and now has added three goals and two assists so far in the postseason. Not bad for a castaway.

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12. And to think that, once upon a time, Gorgeous George McPhee actually ran a Mexican restaurant named Blue Moon on Manhattan’s Ninth Avenue. In the shadow of Madison Square Garden, it once was frequented by none other than Mister Devil, Ken Daneyko. And The Maven. Good, hot, eats, too.

13. How do you explain the Knights’ success? My sidekick, Gabbi Riggi of Edison, New Jersey says the team’s strength comes threefold: “No.1, no pressure, no problems. The expectation was to put a team on the ice for 60 minutes, leaving the Knights ample room to work with. Second is Gerard Gallant’s non-chastisement ways. They allow his players to make amends for penalties or problems on the ice. Last is the squad’s depth. When Vegas gets to roll with three third-lines and a punchy fourth the pace is unrelenting.”

14. This from my buddy, Beuk Forrest of Hillsborough, New Jersey: “I love the Knights’ Alex Tuch. With size like Eric Lindros, hands like Jaromir Jagr and a shot like the Rocket. That’s the reason he’s been on the first line alongside Erik Haula and James Neal. Ex-Wild GM Chuck Fletcher must be saying, ‘How did I let him get away?'”

WINNIPEG, MB – MAY 20: Alex Tuch #89 of the Vegas Golden Knights celebrates after scoring a goal during the first period against the Winnipeg Jets in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell MTS Place on May 20, 2018 in Winnipeg, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead/Getty Images)

15. If the Knights could be compared to wildlife, my choice would be the piranha. Like the predatory fish of the same name, the Vegas sextet works best in packs. The Knights bite as a group.

16. Credit The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun with discovering that Neal came up with the nickname “Golden Misfits” for his no-longer-motley crew of teammates

17. My sidekick Matthew Blittner picks Haula as his favorite unheralded Knight. When I asked why, he said: “Haula experienced a career year across the board and is part of the reason the Wild have a new G.M.”

18. I ask you, the reader: Do the Capitals have an identity? They once were known as a skill or finesse team. Now they’re physical, shot-blockers.

19. Coach Barry Trotz answers that one, noting that his roster has changed significantly. “Right now,” said Trotz, “we’re just a good team and play the game the right way more often. We have more speed and more youthful enthusiasm.”

20. Why is this Ovechkin different from previous playoff Ovechkins? The Maven sees him as more focused — on a mission.

21. Few are aware that Trotz visited The Great 8 in Russia after the captain’s wedding to the magnificently beautiful Anastasia Shubskaya. “I told Alex to keep growing,” Trotz explains, “and not be a one-trick pony because the league keeps changing.”

22. Trotz’s hot lap to start off Caps practices is good for laughs — the first time. But it loses its humorous value after each Washington loss.

LAS VEGAS, NV – MAY 27: Capitals head coach Barry Trotz completes a hot lap at the start of practice during the Capitals practice for the NHL Stanley Cup Final Media Day on May 27, 2018 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

23. Interesting how Brooks Orpik has become a social media darling — at age 37.  He knows that this is his last really good shot at the champagne. He must be a lover of the Frank Sinatra tune, “All Or Nothing At All.”

24. Why does everyone but the Capitals love Marc-Andre Fleury?’ His boss, McPhee, knows: “He’s one of the finest people you’ll meet in this game. The way he carries himself is really impressive. It’s not contrived; it’s who he is.”

25. McPhee is pals with Washington GM Brian MacLellan. Fine, but that doesn’t mean there’s friendship when making deals: “We made our selection (in the expansion draft) and then MacLellan called and asked if there’s any way we could do a deal for him to get Nate Schmidt back,” McPhee recalls.  “We made a proposal that I didn’t think would work because our guys like Schmidt.”

26. When will goalies learn that the “Butterfly” (automatically dropping to the knees) Technique often does more harm than good? Neal’s opening goal in Game 2 would have been a Braden Holtby save had he stayed upright. Instead, Holtby went down, the puck went up — GOAL!  Automatic Butterfly is the definition of dumb!

27. This is one of the hitting-est series since the Toronto-Islanders one back in 1978. Vegas gives as hard as it takes. Good, clean high-sticking is the order of the night. I love it.

28. Favorite Doc Emrick words: JOSTLE, CHAOS, LOGJAM, A CROWD GATHERS.

29. Dmitry Orlov wins The Maven’s Best Mustache Award. His beard cops the “Where Is It?” prize.  Jay Beagle is runner-up on both counts.

30. Down 2-3 entering the third period of Game 2, the Knights’ late siege was chilling. But Holtby was hot. This time hot cooled chilling.

31. Tom Wilson has decided not to run for Vegas mayor.

32. But he will run at any Knight on any night.

33. Holtby’s paddle save on Tuch in the final minutes of Game 2 has to be The Save Of The Series; if not the entire playoffs.

34. This was his career game — despite that unnecessary “Butterfly” noted earlier.

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The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.