If you have largely ignored the NHL playoffs this year, it’s fine. We’re cool. There are reasons that a person would have checked out in the early rounds, and I, a hockey fan, completely understand. We get like 37 news alerts every day, man, and there is only so much that a person can focus on in this life.

But, I’m telling you, it’s time to focus on this guy:

And this guy:

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We have ourselves a game 💪

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But not this guy in the white and blue, who I see has stolen my standard facial expression . . .

Because he is extremely eliminated.

On Monday night, the Vegas Golden Knights, a real and good hockey team, will meet the Washington Capitals, ?!????!?!?!, in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. And now people are talking about Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom’s hug and Barry Trotz’s hot lap and Tom Wilson’s fight and I think you might want to get into this.


Are you ready to get into this? Because I can help.

What even is going on with the Washington Capitals?
Actually, Dan Steinberg has already covered that earlier in the playoffs, in a piece headlined “What even is going on with the Washington Capitals?

It’s real good, you should read it. But, yeah, I have no idea.

Uh, okay. So what even is going on with the Vegas Golden Knights?
Soooooooo, I also sort of have no idea on this one, either, because this was all super unexpected.

Shouldn’t there be like, experts who could have seen this coming or something?
Apparently not.

What a sport.
Please like it.

But, seriously, can you recap?
Okay. SO. Vegas, an expansion team playing in its first season, has frolicked through the playoffs. It swept the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, then stomped the San Jose Sharks, winning that series in six.


It faced the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference finals, where some hockey stuff happened, but the most important thing to know was that the Vegas pregame show was very good. Let’s all take a beat and watch it together.

So on brand. My guy, Sir Golden Knight, is out there, fightin’ a dang jet. Anyway, Vegas won that series in five games. Of course.

The Caps’ run has been well documented in this very newspaper, so for additional background on that, I would direct you to our archives. Or, if you need it, our subscription department, then our archives. Thanks in advance.

I don’t actually care that much about hockey, so why should I watch the finals?
Man, because this is nuts. I don’t know what you want from sports, but this has:


• A tremendously successful expansion team comprised of castoffs and misfits
• A team carrying the emotional baggage of constant, crushing failure
• A crazy-fun fan base that has developed in the desert
• This crazy-fun fan base right here in the greater Washington area, which possibly includes your neighbors and co-workers and casual acquaintances
• And a bunch of other stuff, including but not limited to: Ovechkin finally playing for the Cup; dueling hot goaliesMike Milbury saying nice thingsthe Blue Man Group


For our nerd readership, there’s also a trademark issue and, a stylebook debate about what we should call this thing, I guess. Definitely feel free to chime in on that one; we all absolutely love it when that happens.

Yeah, but does it have a good dog?

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Marc-Andre Fleury, meet Bark-Andre Furry 🐶

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Yes, it is has a very good dog, Bark-Andre Furry. This is the best series.

Okay, tell me more.
Dude, even the front office/coaching parts have fun side plots. George McPhee is the general manager of the Golden Knights and also the former general manager of the Capitals, which seems awkward and amazing, since he is basically the architect of both sides. Just . . . feelings. So many feelings.

The GM of the Caps is now Brian MacLellan, who has a long personal history with McPhee. It all sounds very heavy, I don’t even know.

The Knights are coached by Gerard Gallant, who you might remember from that time he was pictured grabbing a cab after being fired. That seemed like some hot garbage at the time, but then Gallant said it was not as big of a deal and now it is a Twitter joke, so I think he’s probably doing okay. It felt like something I should mention, since you might see it again:


Whom should I be watching in this game?
Depends on your general area of interest. I’ll try to cover all my bases.

Cool goals: William Karlsson
Cool goal celebrations: Evgeny Kuznetsov
Cool group efforts: Vegas’s top line
Cool cars: Jonathan Marchessault
Good hats: Braden Holtby
Good hair: Andre Burakovsky
Good pranks: Marc-Andre Fleury
Lovable goofs: Nate Schmidt
New babies: John Carlson
Old millennials: Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom

And — even though I feel like I’ve made this abundantly clear — the knight who fights a thing before puck drop.

We should all be watching him. Game starts at 8 p.m. on NBC; don’t be late.

Is it okay to start following this series if I don’t know what I’m talking about, hockey-wise?
Look, this is the perfect situation for a casual fan. It’s fun to bandwagon either team and totally acceptable. Vegas is a weird and remarkable joy. The Caps have, well, you know. Their own stuff.


If you want to sound like a smart hockey fan, here’s a good guide to the fancy stats you might see thrown around. Here are some hockey people to follow on Twitter. But you can still appreciate this, even if you don’t know a ton about hockey. Don’t believe me? Ask Wayne Newton.

Do you have a prediction?
I predict we’re all going to have an enjoyable time together, and one of these teams will win and the other one will get second place, then Gary Bettman will get booed. Is that good enough? No? Whatever; you should get this from Neil instead.