A Sharks fan's guide to the Golden Knights-Capitals Stanley Cup Final


Sharks fans are mostly focused on the early, active start to San Jose’s offseason, but there’s still some hockey going on. The Stanley Cup Final officially begins tonight (5 p.m., NBC), featuring a matchup between a team that nobody, including the team’s general manager, expected much of anything from entering the season, playing against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Yes, seeing an expansion team as one of the last two standing is one thing. Seeing a Washington Capitals team there after years of heartbreak AND a season after assembling one of the best rosters in the salary cap era and failing to get there is another.

Sharks fans may have missed the lead-in after San Jose was eliminated and daydreaming about a John Tavares signing, so we set out to answer some frequently asked* questions about the Cup Final.

Alright! Who is playing in the Stanley Cup Final?
Did you read the first few paragraphs?

Ouch, no need to be snarky. Fine, which team has more ex-Sharks in its organization?
That’d be Vegas.

Forward Ryan Carpenter, who scored one point (an assist) in 16 games with San Jose this season before he was waived in December, has 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) in 49 games between the regular season and playoffs. He’s a nice encapsulation of the Golden Knights’ story this season, making the most of a bigger opportunity (averaging about a minute-and-a-half more ice time) and better luck (he wasn’t going to shoot zero percent forever) in Sin City.

Kelly Kisio, the second All-Star in Sharks history, is one of Vegas’ pro scouts and has played a role in their early success. It’s quite the turnaround from his time in San Jose, the first two years of the franchise in which it won 23 fewer games (28) than the Golden Knights did in their inaugural season.

The Capitals have no ex-Sharks on their roster, but do have one in their scouting department. Matt Bradley, San Jose’s fourth-round pick in 1996 who scored 29 points in 121 games from 2000-03, has been a pro scout with Washington since 2015.

Well, does either team club have a famous, childhood Sharks fan on its roster?
That’s oddly specific, but yes! He may be the series’ most compelling player, too.

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin grew up a Sharks fan in Moscow, a fandom that essentially began because he liked his childhood teammate’s headwear. Don’t call Ovi a bandwagoner, though: His favorite player was former San Jose captain Owen Nolan.

Rooting interests aside, Ovechkin fits a familiar archetype for Sharks fans: The Unfairly Maligned Superstar. In the same years in which Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton were often blamed for San Jose’s shortcomings in the second season, Ovechkin got similar treatment in the nation’s capital.

Of course, much like Marleau and Thornton, the perception was overstated, and Ovechkin isn’t atoning for his past as much as he’s proving that he’s always been a playoff performer. Sound familiar?

Yeah, it does. So which team is more like the Sharks, then?

That’s not a good answer. Why?
On the one hand, you have a team that’s four wins away from winning its first Stanley Cup after coming up short in almost every way imaginable, and at a time when fans and critics alike least expected it, much like the Sharks two playoffs ago.

On the other, you have a team playing in a “nontraditional,” warm-weather city that many purists thought could not get behind a hockey team, let alone this quickly and loudly. There’s a lot more success on the ice and the arena is much nicer, sure, but Las Vegas’ open embrace of the Golden Knights should remind San Jose fans of the early days at the Cow Palace.

In other words, both clubs’ journeys should be pretty recognizable.

So, who should we root for then?
That’s up to you, Hypothetical Question-Asker! We’d argue you shouldn’t just root against the Golden Knights because they beat the Sharks, but there should be plenty of compelling reasons to root for the Capitals independent of Vegas, and to watch as a neutral.

Either way, we’ll have a champion that’s not from Chicago, Los Angeles, or Pittsburgh for the first time since 2012, and a franchise is going to win its first Stanley Cup. It’ll be a compelling Cup Final.

Isn’t that kind of a cop-out?
Sure, but so is this FAQ.

*Not frequently asked

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