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|Mike Babcock was at his daughter’s graduation when he received a text message from a friend about reports of a strained relationship with star center Auston Matthews. ”I’ll find out in the morning Andrew Adams Jersey ,” the Toronto coach replied. ”I’ll meet him. I’ll ask him in the morning.”
As the Maple Leafs cleaned out their lockers Friday in the wake of a seven-game loss to the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs, Babcock and Matthews addressed speculation the coach had ”lost” his player during the series.
”I said, `What’s going on?”’ Babcock told reporters of his conversation with Matthews. ”It’s interesting in Toronto, you (media) do such a good job. You’re everywhere. You’re under the bench, you’re in the crack in the door, you’re in the car, you’re in the parking lot. You’re everywhere, and any time anybody does anything there’s a big story.
”I asked him flat-out, `Do we have any (issues)?’ He was sitting right there. We don’t seem to.”
Matthews, who had just a goal and an assist against Boston, said talk of friction also was news to him.
”I don’t know what that’s all about,” he said. ”Our relationship’s fine. Obviously Eric Rowe Jersey , you guys can speculate all you want, but I think it’s pointless.
”Stuff happens, people speculate. I can tell you right now it’s not the case.”
The 20-year-old from Arizona scored 34 goals in regular season despite missing 20 games due to injury, but admitted to being frustrated in the Bruins series following a Game 7 where Toronto blew a 4-3 lead in the third period before losing 7-4.
”Auston’s a young man trying to be the best player in the world,” Babcock said. ”The hardest part in life is when you’re disappointed and you thought you maybe could have done more. I know that from me as a coach … it makes you sick, almost. He’s a good young man. We’re lucky to have him. I’m lucky to get to coach him, and we continue to grow our product here with him leading the way.”
The Washington Capitals have waited nearly 44 years to raise the Stanley Cup for the first time. Their only remaining obstacles are some desert-dwelling misfits who refuse to wait for anything.
The expansion Vegas Golden Knights are just four wins away from an astounding championship when they host Alex Ovechkin’s long-striving Caps on Monday night to open a thoroughly improbable Stanley Cup Final.
Even the players from the NHL’s last two teams standing seemed a bit surprised by their achievements when they gathered Sunday in balmy 84-degree Nevada weather.
”Who would have thunk it?” asked Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt, who played the previous four seasons for the Capitals. ”The Stanley Cup Final that was never meant to be, right?”
Indeed, a first-time NHL champ will be crowned next month after a Final between two teams that arrived at hockey’s ultimate destination from very different directions. While the Caps finally climbed over the hump in the Eastern Conference, the Golden Knights have been bulldozing every logical obstacle in their path since October.
”We’ve been able to do some things in the playoffs, but we never got to that last stage until now Phil McConkey Jersey ,” Washington forward T.J. Oshie said. ”And everybody knows what Vegas did in the first year is very special. We’re both hungry. This is going to be a beast of a series.”
The Golden Knights have exceeded every expectation by utilizing a rich expansion draft and multiple clever coaching moves to create a team that dominated the Pacific Division and then rampaged through the Western Conference playoffs. Their story still carries a ring of impossibility, but they’re close to adding a real ring to every hand in the dressing room full of self-described ”Golden Misfits,” as their T-shirts say.
The Capitals have repeatedly fallen short of their postseason goals during Ovechkin’s career, including a heartbreaking shutout loss to Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 7 of the second round against Pittsburgh last spring. After falling to Fleury’s champion Penguins in the past two postseasons, the Caps revamped their roster with youth and finally overcame years of playoff disappointment to reach their first Final in two decades. Of course, Fleury is in the way again – in goal for the Golden Knights.
Neither team was the favorite to get this far. Neither team is ready to stop now.
While Capitals coach Barry Trotz skated his now-customary hot lap before practice at T-Mobile Arena, the Golden Knights had their usual standing room-only crowd for practice at their training complex in suburban Summerlin.
Their grip on this sports-hungry town was already strong, and the 24-hour gambling mecca will come to a standstill this week during the Cup games in the arena behind the New York New York hotel-casino and its 150-foot Statue of Liberty, which has been wearing a Golden Knights jersey since April.
Speaking of larger-than-life figures in hockey sweaters, this series showcases two major talents who can cement a legacy.
Ovechkin is a formidable scorer and competitor, but he has never won an Olympic medal with Russia or a Stanley Cup ring with the Caps. He’s keeping a sense of humor about this momentous trip: With a straight face Sunday, Ovechkin said Russian President Vladimir Putin had called him to wish him luck Dan Marino Jersey , before adding: ”I’m just joking.”
”We want to be here,” Ovechkin said. ”We work so hard all year. I don’t think nobody believes in us, and nobody believes in Vegas, and we’re right now in the Stanley Cup Finals, and we fight for a Cup. Come enjoy this moment.”
Fleury already has three Stanley Cup rings, but he has added another incredible act to his career with tenacious play for the Golden Knights, whose inexperienced pros have leaned on him to get through tough nights.
”I think it’s weird seeing that team here, being in the Cup the first year,” said Brooks Orpik, the only Washington player with a ring. ”Obviously, I’m not surprised (Fleury) is here. Without him, they weren’t beating us last year. He singlehandedly won a couple of games for (Pittsburgh) when we totally outplayed them.”
Here are more things to know about the ice hockey event in the Mojave:
The winning coach also will raise the Stanley Cup for the first time in a fitting peak to two careers built on resilience. The 55-year-old Trotz never played in the NHL Vincent Valentine Jersey , but his 19th season as an NHL coach is ending in his first Cup Final. Gerard Gallant was a solid NHL forward for Detroit, but the 54-year-old bench boss had never even won a playoff round as an NHL coach before this spring.
Several Capitals pointed out the importance of minimizing turnovers against the Golden Knights, whose counterattacking acumen and team speed cause problems. ”They’re a very fast team and when you turn pucks over, they’re like a shark smelling blood in the water,” Oshie said. ”They all stop on a dime and want to take it the other way. That’s how they get a lot of their offense.”
Ovechkin could become the first Russian captain to raise the Stanley Cup. If the Knights win, they don’t have a captain to raise the Cup first. Gallant and GM George McPhee decided to rely on a six-man leadership council instead. ”I think that’s the best decision we ever made,” Gallant said. ”Sure, there’s guys who could have been captain in our group, but it was their first year – and we really didn’t think we’d be grabbing the (Western Conference) trophy the Authentic Womens Kareem Martin Jersey