many storylines have taken shape, leading up to the final series of the 2017-18 NHL season.
When the final horn sounds, one of the two competitors will have captured its first Stanley Cup in franchise history, and the other will be left with a summer of questions, as to what went wrong.
The Vegas Golden Knights have already made history time and time again this past season. Shattering old records for everything from wins to points, to playoff appearances, to playoff wins, to individual player success. Unfortunately for Winnipeg – or more specifically fans of the Jets – the Golden Knights made their way through Winnipeg, en route to their first appearance in the Cup final, crushing the Jets in just five games.
Lead by Assistant General Manager and Manitoban, Kelly McCrimmon – former coach and manager of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings – Vegas chose a conglomeration of Manitoban talent in its two drafts last summer. Picking up Keegan Kolesar, Cody Glass, Calvin Pickard, Brendan Leipsic and Cody Eakin gave Vegas somewhat of a Canadian prairie boy feel. But as the season progressed, both Pickard and Leipsic found their way out of town via trades (Toronto, Vancouver respectively).
McCrimmon and his crew also picked up tough Winnipegger Ryan Reaves along the way from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Reaves actually scored the series-clinching goal over his hometown Jets in mid-May – the ultimate dagger to the heart of Jets fans.
With two players and one manager on the Golden Knights hailing from Manitoba, the Stanley Cup favourite, Vegas, may be the team to root for moving forward. Their competition will feature two Manitobans, and one angry Russian.
After finally besting nemesis Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in the second round, Alexander Ovechkin has finally set his date with Stanley. Leading his Capitals teammates – including young Winnipeg-born defenceman Madison Bowey – Ovechkin will take commands from Head Coach Barry Trotz.
Trotz, originally from Dauphin, will also have his shot at earning a day with the Cup – as coaches most definitely get to participate in the annual tradition as well. In a contract year, Trotz will certainly be in line for a significant raise for the 2018-19 season, whether that is with Washington or elsewhere.
Although having one’s name engraved on Lord Stanley’s mug is the ultimate honour, bringing the Cup back to the home for fans is also an unforgettable experience.
All players, coaches, and managers qualify for engraving as the rule states that a player must play one game in the Stanley Cup Final, or play a minimum of 41 games for the team during the regular season. Reaves will certainly be slotted back into Vegas’ winning lineup, while Bowey may miss out on the Final, but he did dress 51 times for the Caps this past season.
No matter who wins the Cup, whether you are cheering for a tireless Alex Ovechkin, or the pop-up franchise in Vegas, the Stanley Cup will be making a few stops north of the border in Manitoba this coming summer.