Game 3 of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final is upon us. If the competition level of the first two games remains constant, then we’re bound to have a nail biting contest from here on out.
Game 2 was a great follow up to game 1 as it allowed some unlikely heroes like Brooks Orpik—who hasn’t even scored a goal since February of 2016—to score a game winner. The first two games of this series also saw 2 franchises earn their first Stanley Cup Final game wins in their respective histories.
As we travel to our nation’s capital for game 3, we will be on the lookout for heroes and legends to rise as these two teams inch closer for their prize- Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Golden Knights Outlook
Missed opportunities and a miraculous late-game save by the Cap’s Braden Holtby are the sole reason the Vegas Golden Knights are not up 2-0 in the series. After a game 2 defeat, Vegas will now go into Washington D.C., a city that has been thirsty for a cup ever since the being swept by the Red Wings in 1998, and try to take back their series lead.
Losing game 2 did not put Vegas in a big hole, however. I believe Vegas actually has a slight edge going into game 3 as the Cap’s star forward and NHL points leader in the playoffs, Evgeny Kuznetsov, will be a game time decision following an injury to his left arm in the series’ second contest.
The 2 goals scored for the Knights in game 2 came off passes from William Karlsson and Reilly Smith. These two members of Vegas’ top line have been passing the puck incredibly well and they will be a huge factor in game two. If Vegas can to use their weapons to carve up Washington’s defense, then not even Braden Holtby would be able to keep up and they will start to win this series with ease.
Speaking of goalies, Marc Andre-Fleury has not been his usual self in this series vs. the Capitals. Through 2 games, Fleury has already given up 7 goals, which is unlike him due to his very strong regular season and playoffs. This series was hyped up as a so-called “goalie battle” but has turned in to an offensive free-for-all in which miracle saves are made occasionally.
Despite Alex Ovechkin scoring his first career Stanley Cup goal and the aforementioned Brooks Orpik scoring for the first time in 2 years, the real savior of the game Braden Holtby. Holtby responded to adversity once again having a .949 save percentage on 37 saves in game 2. The adversity came from an awful game 1, in which he gave up 6 goals, including 2 from the Vegas 4th line.
The major red flag going into this home game for Washington is based around one question: Will Evgeny Kuznetsov play? The points leader in the playoffs, who has 25 points through 21 games, will be a deciding factor for many game predictions everywhere. I believe that with or without Kuznetsov, the Capitals will be fine. This thought stems from the poise they had as a team following the star center’s exit in the first period. After Evgeny went to the locker room, the Caps piled on 2 more goals, beating the Golden Knights in dramatic fashion.
Game 3 Preview
Washington’s key to victory is… responding to the face of adversity.
Game 3 will be the major turning point in the series. The two narratives coming in will be: Can Vegas avenge a home loss? Or can the Capitals respond to the potential loss of a star?
If Vegas is to win tomorrow then the focal point of their attack needs to be Jonathan Marchessault. Marchessault only has 1 point thus far in the Cup Final and it came off an assist in a high scoring game 1. Marchessault has a total of 19 points thus far in the playoffs, and 11 of them are assists. If Marchessault can start feeding his teammates like he did in previous series, then Washington will start to rely on Braden Holtby to make miraculous saves every single play, which is a task that that this goalie will not get done.
Washington’s key to victory is, once again, responding to the face of adversity. Even if Kuznetsov does play, people will still continue to doubt a momentum driven Caps team, who usually has a playoff-meltdown.
Washington will look for a particularly inspired game from Lars Eller, who will likely be the replacement if Kuznetsov cannot infact play. Eller has had a great postseason with 11 assists and 6 goals, and will look to pad these stats even more in game 3 at home. Look for Eller to play a big role in Washington’s offense even if Kuznetsov does play, as Evgeny will likely not be 100%.