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Reilly Smith Jersey

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Reilly and Brendan Smith’s offseason skates together had a different feel this summer.

Younger brother Reilly Smith of the Golden Knights had to show older brother Brendan of the New York Rangers some new tricks. That’s because Brendan Smith, who spent his first eight seasons in the NHL playing defenseman, has switched to forward this season. So he and Reilly participated in forward drills to get him ready for a new chapter in his career.

Brendan Smith is now playing on the Rangers’ fourth line while transitioning back to defense on the penalty kill. It’s an unorthodox role, but it’s helped him become a consistent contributor. And Reilly Smith will get to see his brother’s new responsibilities in person again when the Knights host the Rangers at 4 p.m. Sunday at T-Mobile Arena.

“I think he’s done a really good job. Obviously, it’s not an easy situation,” Reilly Smith said. “He’s enjoying it. He’s a big part of their team.”

Brendan Smith has six points (three goals, three assists) in his new role. He had an unassisted goal Monday against the Montreal Canadiens, stealing a loose puck and beating goaltender Carey Price with a backhand move.

That kind of skill is impressive from a player still getting adjusted to a new position. It’s better than Reilly Smith could do if the brothers’ positions were reversed, because he said he couldn’t learn to play defenseman.

“I can’t skate backward,” Reilly Smith said.

Stephenson gets adjusted

New Knights forward Chandler Stephenson earned a prime spot in the City National Arena locker room: The stall between talkative forwards Jonathan Marchessault and Ryan Reaves.

It’s one of many ways the team is trying to integrate Stephenson into the group after he was traded from the Washington Capitals on Monday. Saturday was his first practice with the Knights at City National Arena, and Sunday will be his first game as a member of the home team at T-Mobile.

It will be his second game in the rink since Game 5 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, when he got to carry the Cup around the ice as a member of the victorious Capitals.

“Obviously, what happened is something that will last a lifetime,” Stephenson said. “(I’m) looking forward to being on the good side now.”

Glass sees NYC

The Knights’ recent three-game trip was rookie Cody Glass’ first visit to New York City. The center took full advantage.

He said he visited Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Central Park and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

“It was really cool,” Glass said. “I’m from Winnipeg, so I don’t see that much stuff.”

David Perron Jersey

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David Perron, Vegas Golden Knights

Perron played a significant role in the Golden Knights’ regular-season success. Skating on the second line with Neal and Erik Haula, the veteran winger led the club in assists (50), while his 66 points in 70 games ranked third.

An upper-body injury sidelined Perron for the final six games of the regular season and first two games of the opening round, and an illness kept him out of two games during the Western Conference Final. He’s been limited to just seven points (all assists) in 11 playoff contests.

With time to rest between the conference final and Stanley Cup Final, Perron might be able to put his recent health issues behind him. If so, he could provide a big boost to the Golden Knights offense.

Tom Wilson, Washington Capitals

Every team has an agitator who can get under his opponent’s skin. Skating on the Capitals’ top line with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov, Wilson has done a fine job driving opponents to distraction. A hustling, physical forward who doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff, the 6’4″, 218-pounder has also tallied 11 points in 16 postseason contests.

Wilson’s sometimes undisciplined antics, though, can result in costly penalties. During the second round, he received a three-game suspension for a hit to the head of Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese, who missed the last three games of the series.

When focused, however, Wilson can turn the tide of a game with a goal, a well-timed hit or a fight. He could become a crucial factor for the Capitals in their drive for their first Stanley Cup championship.

The Golden Knights Will Win If…
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Marc Sanchez/Associated Press
Fleury maintains his stellar form between the pipes, they get more from their secondary scorers and improve their faceoff win percentage.

Fleury’s performance is the talk of the playoffs. His stellar goaltending has offset the high number of shots (33.7 per game) Vegas has given up. He’s also a big reason why it has the fourth-best penalty-killing percentage (82.5) entering the Final.

The Golden Knights’ aggressive forechecking system has also been a crucial part of their success. Still, they could use more production beyond their top line of center Karlsson and wingers Marchessault and Reilly Smith. They’re the only Golden Knights’ scorers with double-digit point totals.

More troubling for Vegas is its performance in the faceoff circle. Its 47.8 faceoff win percentage is third-worst among postseason clubs. That could adversely affect it on the power play and in penalty-killing situations. If the Golden Knights can improve that stat, it may be a crucial factor in their first Stanley Cup victory.

The Capitals Will Win If…
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Chris O’Meara/Associated Press
Their scoring punch stays strong, Holtby out-duels Fleury and they do a better job of killing penalties.

Led by playoff scoring leaders Kuznetsov and Ovechkin, the Capitals possess both the second-best goals per game average (3.47) and second-best power-play percentage (28.8). Seven players—Kuznetsov, Ovechkin, Backstrom, John Carlson, T.J. Oshie, Lars Eller and Wilson—have double-digit point totals. They’ll be tough for the Golden Knights to contain.

Among goaltenders who’ve played more than four games, Holtby is second to Fleury in goals-against average, tied for second in shutouts and third in save percentage. He’s outplayed such notables as Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky, Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray and Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. If Holtby outperforms Fleury in this series, Washington could win its first Cup.

The Capitals’ penalty-killing percentage (75.4) ranks 10th among postseason clubs. While the Golden Knights’ power play (17.6) is also 10th, their energetic forecheck could prove a handful for Washington’s penalty killers. In what could be a closely contested Cup Final, killing penalties could make the difference.

Prediction
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Ethan Miller/Getty Images
One of these teams will skate away as the Stanley Cup champion, and the other will just skate away.

Winning the Cup would provide a Hollywood ending to an amazing first season for the Vegas Golden Knights. After their dominating regular-season and playoff performances, they enter this series as slight favorites, per OddsShark. They’re a well-built, well-coached, hard-working team that hit the ground running in its first season and appears to have a bright future.

Meanwhile, the Capitals have emerged after years of disappointment and criticism. Ovechkin, one of the greatest scorers in NHL history, needs a Stanley Cup to complete his impressive resume. This could be the last, best opportunity for him and his teammates to win it all.

With Ovie performing like a man on a mission and the Caps playing well at both ends of the rink, they should have enough to overcome the plucky Golden Knights.