Hockey Night in Vegas!
Tonight the Washington Capitals are in Sin City to take on the Vegas Golden Knights for the first time. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the expansion Golden Knights are having a terrific first year and sit in second place in their division with the second highest point total in the entire Western Conference (despite having played three less games than the Kings whom they trail).
Our Capitals come in having lost in overtime last night in Phoenix, but will have their top goalie in net as Braden Holtby rested yesterday against the Coyotes. The loss was just the second of December for the surging Caps, but they will be a slight underdog tonight on the second leg of a road back to back. Both of the aforementioned losses came on the road. Puck drop is at 8pm EST, an unusually favorable time for a game in the Pacific time zone.
Here are some things I will be watching for tonight from Vegas:
1- How is GM GM’s team looking? Capitals fans will definitely recognize the architect of this surprising Vegas squad, former Washington General Manager, George McPhee, who was with the Capitals from 1997 to 2014. The organization did a good job in the expansion draft and assembled a roster that has surprisingly good chemistry.
2- How is our old friend Nate Schmidt doing? Caps fans will also recognize defenseman Nate Schmidt who Vegas acquired via the expansion draft as Washington left him unprotected. We was a popular player when he was here and I was definitely sorry to see him go.
3- Is Vegas native Bryce Harper going to be in attendance? Bryce has mostly embraced DC since being drafted by the Nationals, but he is proud to be from Las Vegas and definitely hasn’t hid that pride. My guess is that NBC Sports Washington will show him sitting in a luxury box 6-8 times over the course of the game.
4- Does anybody in Las Vegas care about hockey? From what I have read they are selling seats at the T-Mobile Arena but aren’t selling out. Playing in front of 17,000 is pretty good, but I think the jury is still out on whether or not there will be consistent support. Clark County has more than two million residents so there is definitely a population base to support a team, but hockey in the desert is a little strange and Vegas itself is just a very different mix of people. As long as they continue to put a good squad on the ice, I hope they sell tickets. If I had to guess, I would say this experiment will last a few years before the league has to pull the plug. Think Atlanta Thrashers moving to Winnipeg to reboot the Jets franchise.
5- Can the Caps solve Fleury and get a win? The best thing Vegas did in the expansion draft was to nab a Stanley Cup winning goalie from the two time defending champion Penguins. The 33 year old Marc-Andre Fleury lost his job to a younger Matt Murray, but still has a lot of good hockey left in him. Oh, and he has killed the Capitals over the years. Even so, I’m feeling a win for the Ovi and the boys tonight. Let’s go Caps!