That was unexpected by most in hockey, who figured the Knights would finish last in their division like most expansion teams do, even though the NHL made sure they had a lot of good players to choose from. Make no mistake, their attack will be the toughest the Golden Knights have faced in these playoffs. "I was walking around Ann Arbor kicking stones and couldn't get a job, you know".
That was nice story, but the playoffs would be different, most observers surmised.
The Vegas Golden Knights, who didn't begin assembling talent until last June, made a stunning run to the best-of-seven final behind goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who backstopped Pittsburgh to the trophy each of the past two years in part by ousting Washington.
So when he skates onto the blue line for the playing of the national anthem before Game 1 on Monday, don't expect Deryk Engelland to sneak a cellphone onto the ice and take a selfie showing the Stanley Cup Final patch on the front of his sweater.
The exit wasn't an easy one for McPhee.
"When you're working with (players), they're sometimes like your own kids", McPhee said. He hand-picked them, molding the roster into a perennial power before his untimely firing in 2014. "I understand that's how things change quickly and that's the business". "And that's the business".
Golden Knights defenceman Nate Schmidt was the player the Capitals lost in the expansion draft. Upon orchestrating an expansion draft that has become a case study for tactful, opportunistic management, McPhee might be the first GM in professional sports to have influenced two competing championship finalists so heavily.
"No one really bet them so we raised the odds", said Jay Kornegay, vice president of the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino SuperBook, in an interview with CNN.
In nearly every instance, teams that made deals with McPhee came out on the losing end.
What a ideal time to be starting a new, weekly hockey column: with the Stanley Cup Final set to open Monday night in Las Vegas.
Knights: Former Wild forwards Erik Haula and Alex Tuch have been major contributors. It was nine days after the massacre of fans at a country music concert just down the street from the T-Mobile Arena where the Knights play, and emotions were raw.
As for Ovechkin, the Capitals' captain and the franchise leader in goals (607), points (1,122), and many other categories, he has played with unbridled passion throughout the playoffs. On three occasions, the overtime victor has been scored within the first two minutes, and the latest single-overtime victor was an absolute buzzer-beater, coming when Mike Bossy scored with two ticks remaining in the first overtime of Game 1 in the 1982 Stanley Cup final.
Schmidt said a common comparison between Holtby and Fleury is easy to see.
"We didn't want to be a doormat". We didn't want to be an embarrassment.
"We had a directive from George about the type of players we wanted, and we concentrated on those players". This community needed it to work. Though the Golden Knights are a nice underdog story, I believe Canuck fans should be cheering most for Washington to win the Stanley Cup. "I can certainly take pride in that".
It's a unique situation. I think we'll see some of his very best hockey. "I didn't know what to expect in rounds one, two, or three, and I don't know what to expect now".
"We're going to look to go to Game 4 in D.C. next Monday night". After finally breaking into the NHL after serving a long minor league apprenticeship, he played four seasons for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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