Thirty-two Cup Final thoughts from The Maven:
1. The Maven has three reasons why Washington will triumph Thursday. 1) Vegas has lost the will to win; 2) Braden Holtby has scored a goalie TKO over Marc-Andre Fleury; 3) Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and “The Great 8,” Alex Ovechkin.
2. A D.C. Date to Remember: July 2, 2015. That’s when the Caps captured Oshie in a deal from the Blues. In case you’re wondering, the Blues got Troy (Not Albany) Brouwer, Pheonix (That’s How He Spells It) Copley and a third rounder. (T.J. That’s Joyous for D.C.)
3. I want to know what kind of vitamins Devante Smith-Pelly has been taking. Start to finish, by comparison, DSP has made the Energizer Bunny look like Sleepwalker Sam.
4. What better Knights’ theme for Game 5 than “Luck Be A Lady Tonight.” James Neal‘s first-period missed open net-hit post was badder-than-bad-luck.
5. Then again, we know that champs make their own luck. It wasn’t Washington’s fault that Neal couldn’t fit the rubber in a gaping 4-feet-high, 6-feet-wide hole. The Knight must have squeezed the scoring juice out of his wand.
6. Let’s face it; another mediocre performance like Monday night’s and Fleury can kiss the Conn Smythe Trophy — that he once seemed destined to win — bye-bye.
7. By contrast, Alex (Rocket Richard Would Have Loved This Russian) Ovechkin — no not Holtby — can kiss the Smythe hello.
8. A Search Team is needed. “Where have you gone, William Karlsson?” Ditto, David Perron and Shea (Not The Stadium) Theodore.
9. Tom (The Terrible) Wilson confounds his critics with his effective goal-stick and ability to survive the ever-stalking Ryan Reaves. If Wilson ever took time to read the rule book, almost everybody — but the Knights — would love him.
10. In Winnipeg, they’re still lamenting the fact that had their favorite team reached the Final, their beloved Jets would have vetoed the Caps in six.
11. Trouble is the Jets couldn’t beat the Knights in five.
12. Any mouse worth his weight in Mickeys will tell you the Vegas defense has a whiff of Swiss cheese about it.
13. Most distressing to Knights fans like me is that — in Game 4 — they valiantly cut the Caps’ lead to two in the third — with plenty of time to tie — and just as quickly — gave away a cheapy to Michal Kempny to ruin what could have been a melodramatic finish.
14. Barry Trotz being let go — even if his Caps win the Stanley Cup — is a preposterous idea. That said, the rumor persists that his associate coach Todd Reirden is slated to replace Barry in the offseason.
15. Although The Maven is not the biggest fan of Britney Spears, I’m heartened by the fact that the blonde singer-dancer is rooting for the Knights; as I’m sure they are too.
— Britney Spears (@britneyspears) June 4, 2018
16. Tons have been written and spoken about Ovie, but I like Trotz’s simple X-Ray of his captain: “Just as the play is at another level, his emotional level is higher. He’s a great study in human emotions; he’s going through them all in these playoffs.”
17. What can Gerard Gallant say when virtually the entire civilized world figures his club will be vulcanized. “We gotta work hard and maybe get some breaks.” (Like they didn’t in the first period of Game 4.)
18. When I need a rare insight or three, I turn to my Fischler Report partner, David Bradley Kolb, a onetime NHL scout. In this case, he takes Gallant to task. To wit: “While Gerard got Kudos for protecting Shea Theodore‘s notorious Game 3 to the media, the right move was to give the defenseman a game to soak it in in the press box. Instead, Theodore got beaten badly on the Caps’ second and third goals in the last game. That opened the floodgates.”
19. I like when goalies speak up defending goalies. Ex-Islanders goalie Jamie McLennan — now a TV analyst — says Fleury should not be blamed for his club’s collapse. Jamie says the players around The Flower let him down.
20. So did Fleury’s pads.
21. Talk about Strange Playoff Bedfellows, how about the pair behind the Caps’ bench. On the right is head coach Trotz and right next to him stands Reirden, his assistant. If I were Trotz, I’d be nervous about the guy who happens to be well-mentioned to replace me even if Washington wins The Cup.
22. Remember when the Rangers were losing 3-1 vs. the Caps in the second round of the 2015 playoffs? The Blueshirts rebounded to win three straight. Trotz was the Caps’ coach, then as now. Can the same disaster befall Barry’s boys? Don’t ask me, ask the coach.
23. Not to worry, answers the merry mentor. “Against the Rangers, we weren’t in the place we are now. We’re a totally different team. It’s not even a factor for me.”
24. Let’s not overlook Evgeny Kuznetsov for the Smythe. He’s five points ahead of The Big 8. Trotz doesn’t put Kuzy in Ovie’s class yet. “Kuzy has been on the cusp of superstar status all year, but he’s pretty close to being there. And he’s certainly making a name for himself in the playoffs.”
25. Wouldn’t it be an upset if Kuzy’s nickname becomes Evgeny Smythe?
26. Reader Sam Sandler of Suffern, New York has kind words for Brooks Orpik. “You have to praise a 37-year-old producing well beyond the shelf life of an NHL defenseman. With 148 playoff games under his belt, his veteran expertise is priceless in a Cup-contending locker room. He leads the playoffs with a plus 16 rating — an impressive feat for the elder statesman.”
27. Nobody should be surprised that the Las Vegas city fathers will toss a parade even if their beloved Knights lose Game 5. Good or bad idea?
28. Reader Dylan Turner, now at the University of Pittsburgh, likes the idea. “If any team deserves a parade,” Turner argues, “it’s the Golden Misfits for what they’ve accomplished — even if they go down in five.”
29. Funny thing is that Turner believes that the Knights will win Thursday.
“Why not? They’re only three wins from the Cup and odds against them winning at the start of the season were 500-1 against. All things considered, they’re in a good spot considering that two of the three games they need to win will be in the Desert.”
30. Credit Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons with this put-down: “Erik Haula is not having a great first Stanley Cup Final. He has yet to score, is minus-4, and has 19 minutes in penalties to lead the series. Plus, as the only Finnish player on either team has yet to talk to Finnish television here, who are NHL rights holders.”
31. Frankly, I do a double-take when any media type — even The Maven — rips the Knights. Considering that they made the Cup Final in their freshman year, every member of the club deserves a form of critical immunity.
32. My favorite Cup line belongs to ex-Canucks coach Harry Neale. Working against the Islanders in the 1982 Final, he blurted, “I love when I can look up at the out-of-town scoreboard — and there are no other games being played.”