After a physical Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday in Las Vegas, the Golden Knights are preparing for an even greater battle with the Washington Capitals in Saturday’s Game 3 at Capital One Arena.
With 85 hits between the squads in Washington’s 3-2 win in Game 2 following a combined 63 in Vegas’s Game 1 win, the Golden Knights are stressing the importance of sticking to their identity in Game 3.
“I think the first two games were pretty physical,” Vegas right winger Ryan Reaves said. “They are a physical team. That is part of their identity. Especially in their home city, I think they are going to come out that way, if not even more. We can’t get overwhelmed by it. We can’t think that they are trying to run us out of the building. We got to stay the course.”
The Golden Knights have faced a handful of big-bodied teams during their run to the Stanley Cup finals.
“Every player knows that, when you’re getting in the playoffs, you’re going to have battles with different teams,” Coach Gerard Gallant said Thursday. “We came through a physical L.A. team and an aggressive San Jose team and another physical team in Winnipeg. So guys are used to getting bumped and banged. It’s part of playoff hockey, and you fight through that stuff.”
Vegas right winger Alex Tuch said the Knights will try to push back and be “just as physical, if not more physical” than the Capitals, but most importantly they will try to come out with a lot of energy and attempt to take away the pace.
“You got to catch their body when you can,” Reaves said. “But our identity is we play a speed game, we swarm the zone, we got five guys in the picture in the zone, and it frustrates teams just as their physical play frustrates teams.”
‘Keep it simple’
Leaving the theatrics and comfort of their home ice at T-Mobile Arena, the Golden Knights are set to play in Washington for the first Stanley Cup finals game the city has hosted in 20 years. Not expected for Games 3 and 4 at Capital One Arena is the pregame spectacle that only Vegas can produce, but the Golden Knights are expected to tweak their offense in an effort to simplify things.
The Capitals are 4-5 in the postseason at home, while the Golden Knights are 6-2 on the road. Gallant said his team tries to maintain a similar demeanor on the ice at home or on the road.
“We are just not at home anymore, so we have to dumb down the game a bit, keep it simple,” said Reaves, who stressed Vegas’s ability to adapt its game on the road. “That is pretty much it. It is just like any other road game. … You make big mistakes on away ice, you feed their momentum, and you can’t do that.”
And for the expected atmosphere in the District?
“Fun,” said goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, whose most recent playoff start in D.C. was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals for Pittsburgh last spring. “I get yelled at a lot. It is a fun atmosphere. It is always loud and look forward to playing the game.”
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