- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, Brooks Orpik compared and contrasted two of this postseason’s best goaltenders, Braden Holtby and Marc-Andre Fleury, two men he has called teammates at some point.

Fleury “is more of a jokester than Holts,” Orpik said. “Holts is pretty serious when he gets to the rink. They’re both great teammates and very competitive guys.”

There’s now one more way that Holtby and Fleury are similar: Both men went on to allow four even-strength goals in Game 1 Monday night.

A lingering question after the Vegas Golden Knights’ 6-4 win over the Washington Capitals in that game is exactly how a Stanley Cup game featuring two top-flight netminders could turn into the high-scoring affair it did.

“In the Stanley Cup Final it’s 2-1, 1-0, 3-2, those types or style of games,” center Jay Beagle said. “So it was pretty high-scoring, but I think you don’t know what to really expect when you’re going up against a team that you haven’t seen that much.”

Alex Ovechkin agreed he was surprised by the offensive outburst in Game 1.

“You never know what’s gonna happen in the games,” Ovechkin said. “Sometimes you have to win by one, sometimes goalies play unstoppable and it’s hard to score. But again, I’m pretty sure tomorrow’s going to be different game. It’s going to be more detailed and more intense.”

Fleury recorded a near-impossible .947 save percentage over the Golden Knights’ first three playoff series, but that took a hit and dropped to .942 after he only saved 24 of the Capitals‘ 28 shots Monday. Brett Connolly, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson and Tom Wilson all got pucks past their old foe from the Pittsburgh-Washington rivalry.

Meanwhile, Holtby entered Game 1 with a shutout streak of 159:27, the fourth-longest shutout streak for a goalie entering the Cup finals in NHL history, according to Elias Sports Bureau. That is as hot as someone can be, yet Holtby returned to the ice and allowed five goals in all.

Beagle believes “both teams are probably gonna button down on the D zone.”

“(The Golden Knights) play a tough style. Everything they get, they get behind the net, throwing it out front,” Beagle said. “That East-to-West. We gotta make sure we collapse to the house, make sure we’re more condensed.”

It was true of William Karlsson’s goal and Ryan Reaves’ third-period equalizer: loose pucks or passes from side to side, shot from close range from the side of the net.

“That last game was one of those that I thought I could’ve done a lot better job to make easier breakouts and stuff,” Holtby said. “Today we worked on it a bit, trying to figure out a gameplan. They’re a little erratic compared to most forechecks. They don’t go the same routes every time. They’re kind of just free-for-all at times. So you need patience, you need to just read every forecheck different.”

On the other end of the rink, how did the Capitals score on Fleury with apparent ease? There are multiple factors the players consider. Ovechkin said the Capitals‘ familiarity with Fleury was a factor.

“We watched the video. We know how he play,” Ovechkin said. “We’ve played against him lots of times. We just have to do the same thing.”

But Connolly said it had less to do with that and more to do with the teams’ high number of scoring chances.

When Fleury skates to the corner after allowing a goal, he is saying “bad words” to himself, he told reporters.

“Get it out of you and then relax,” Fleury said. “I just think about what happened and what I could have done different. … You just have to find a way to maybe learn from what happened and be able to reset and forget about it quick to be ready for the next one.”

Fleury is hoping for a more “boring” game when the teams return to T-Mobile Arena Wednesday for Game 2.

“It was exciting to watch, I think, but not the goalie’s favorite, I’ll say,” Fleury said.


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