I went heavy on the Washington Capitals in my 2017-18 NHL playoff draft. I do every year. This year, I also put a lot of stock into the LA Kings. Between the Kings and Caps, I thought it had to be one of their years. I was half right. But, what I never imagined was the Vegas Golden Knight being the Western Conference team in a spot I thought the Kings might occupy.

Anyone who says they knew the Knights would be tied 1-1 after two games in the Stanley Cup Final, let alone in the Stanley Cup Final, I will call a liar! But man has this been an entertaining series!

The Caps and Knights will do battle in Game 3 tonight. Here are a few things to watch for:

Who Steps Up?

James Neal

The Knights opened Game 1 as if they wanted the series wrapped up. James Neal reminded the world he is a sniper, picking the top corner and opening the scoring. He could continue to be a force for the road team on Saturday. Neal is a proven scorer and has been solid for Vegas all year. Expect him to be solid again.

Evgeny Kuznetsov

Brayden McNabb hit Evgeny Kuznetsov with what coach Barry Trotz called a questionable hit in Game 1. I don’t think the intent to hurt was there, but it was iffy and hockey just hates to see a hit like that at this point. It would really damage the Caps if Kuznetsov was out for a long period but it looks as though he’s back in the lineup for Game 3. If he is, how effective will one of Washington’s best offensive weapons be?

Lars Eller

Someone who stood out for me in Game 1 and 2 was Lars Eller; for good and bad reasons.  In the final minutes of Game 1, he fanned on an open net that could have tied the game 5-5 and forced OT. Instead, the Knights walked away 6-4 winners. Still, Eller opened the scoring for the Caps burying a wrister and tying the game. In Game 2, Eller jumped in on the offense again with a beauty pass to Alex Ovechkin who buried his first ever Stanley Cup Final goal. Good to see Ovie finally do it, as we were starting to notice the grey on his head. A few moments later, Eller yet again fed a beauty pass to Brooks Orpik who scored his first goal in 201 games. It was a strange deflection but it worked.

Can Eller continue to be effective for the Caps while limiting his mistakes?

Keying in on Opportunities

T.J Oshie is not one I think of as taking too many stupid penalties but his temper cost the Caps. After taking a hit Oshie replied in kind and was sent to the box. The Knights PP was terrific at getting in Braden Holtby’s way and will look to continue that trend.

Shea Theodore tossed a nice floater that Holtby was completely blind to and I have to say I like this kid. He caught my eye last season in the playoffs as an Anaheim Duck. He’s young and talented,  and the kind of defenseman the team needs.

Other bad penalties were taken by Tom Wilson and Eller who left the Capitals down two men. That can’t continue.

Braden Holtby: Wow, What a Save!

Holtby has been outstanding for the Capitals, but will that always be the case?

Let’s give credit where credit is due. The Holtby save in this series thus far has been the best of the playoffs. WOW. A goal there might have been a back-breaker and a big momentum shift. Instead, it helped lift the Caps to a victory in Game 2. “Holtbeast” is making a strong case for the Conn Smythe and that’s not bad for a guy who started the playoffs on the bench.