The Eastern and Western conference finals began on Friday, May 11. The Washington Capitals are playing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference. Facing off in the Western Conference are the brand new expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights, and the Winnipeg Jets.
The Capitals are making their first appearance in the third round of the playoffs since 1998 after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2. The Capitals are led by Captain Alex Ovechkin and a strong group of veterans who have often tasted playoff defeat while after having enjoyed great regular season success.
The Tampa Bay Lighting are in the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. Led by Captain Steven Stamkos, the Lightning had 113 points in the regular season, third in the entire league. The Lightning are looking to avenge a 2015 loss in the finals to the Chicago Blackhawks with a Stanley Cup.
In the Western Conference, the story of the entire NHL season has been the Vegas Golden Knights. The Knights in their first season are one round away from being in the Stanley Cup Finals. The team is made up of players taken from every other team's roster. The Knights won the Pacific division this year with 109 points. The Golden Knights, as a new team, have surprised the entire hockey world this year with new true star players leading the way.
The other team fighting for a spot in the finals are the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets have been led throughout the playoffs by Dustin Byfuglien and Mark Scheifele. The Jets finished with a league second best 114 points during the regular season.
The Capitals came out firing in the first two games of the series against the Lightning. They won the first Game of the series 4-2 and won Game 2 6-2. The series moved back to Washington May 15, where the Lightning played with their backs against the wall. They won 4-2, making the series 2-1 Washington. The Lightning took Game 4 to tie the series at 2 apiece. The Lightning capitalized on their powerplay opportunities to win 4-2.
The Jets opened up Game 1 with a win against the Golden Knights 4-2. It was only the third loss of the playoffs through three rounds for the Knights. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been a wall for the Golden Knights with a 0.945 save percentage. Game 2 was a different story, the Knights tied the series at 1 with a 3-1 victory in Winnipeg. Game 3 was played in Vegas, and the Knights took the series lead with a 4-2 victory.
The most drama-filled championship would be the Golden Knights versus the Capitals. This is because the Knights general manager is former Capitals general manager George McPhee who was fired from Washington after 17 years in charge in Washington. This would also be the first Stanley Cup finals appearance for the first time since 1998. The Golden Knights would be the first expansion team to ever compete in a final in their first year of existence as well.