LAS VEGAS — As a questioner aptly deadpanned to Washington coach Barry Trotz prior to Game 2 Wednesday, "It turns out there's a lot to do in this town on the off nights." So how are the Capitals keeping their eyes on the prize during the Stanley Cup final and not getting led into temptation in Sin City?
Trotz created a new verb to offer the explanation when he pointed out the Capitals have largely stayed holed up at their hotel.
"They've basically 'caved' it for the last three days," Trotz said to laughter in the T-Mobile Arena interview room before the game against the Vegas Golden Knights. "There's no tans. There's nothing. At this point, especially with this city so different than any other ... they have a bond and have formed a pact that we're not here for pleasure. We can always come back to Vegas. Vegas is going to be here for a long time."
The Capitals are staying at the massive Mandarin Oriental, just down the street from T-Mobile Arena. It has proven popular to NHL teams this season because it is a non-smoking property that does not include a casino and it has spectacular views of the strip from a lounge on the top floor.
The Washington players have apparently been engaged in hours-long video game tournaments, headlined by Mario Kart, and have been watching the NBA playoffs.
"It's obviously pretty easy to stay focused," said Caps forward Jay Beagle. "This is why we play the game, to get to the final. We're at the final. ... We have a great group of leaders to keep everyone focused. We have a lot of fun together. Get a lounge, hang out together. I guess we cave it up, if you want to describe it like he did."
Trotz said he's aware of the video game tournaments and that's fine by him.
"This opportunity may not come by again," he said. "I think that's the message that went out to everybody, so you won't see anybody gambling, you won't see anybody out in the sun for eight hours a time."
Trotz has a running joke with Washington reporters where he tells them to "hydrate" and opens his news conferences by taking a swig of water. (The hydrate line actually began as a way for him to talk around a question he doesn't want to answer).
Trotz went one further Wednesday when he hit the official NHL dais for his pregame session. He provided the usual reminder to hydrate but then took a drink from a bottle of Gatorade on the table. Looking at reporters, he then drew laughter when he said, "That’s smooth, real smooth" to perfectly mimic the Patrick Kane-Duncan Keith commercial that's been running ad nauseum on NBC during the playoffs.
• The NHL said Wednesday that the Golden Knights' 6-4 win in Game 1 was just the third game in NHL postseason history — and the first one in the Cup final — to feature four lead changes. The others were Game 2 of the 1936 quarterfinals (Chicago 5, NY Americans 4) and Game 2 of the 1992 Smythe Division semifinals (Los Angeles 8, Edmonton 5).
• Vegas is one of seven teams in history to open a playoff year with a 13-3 record. Los Angeles went 14-2 in 2012 and the last team to open 13-3 was the 1999 Sabres after they won Game 1 of the final in Dallas on Jason Woolley's overtime goal. Of course, that team ended up losing four of the next five games of the No Goal series.
• The Caps' Game 1 defeat now puts them in position to be just the second team in history to win the Cup after trailing at some point in all four rounds. The only other team to do that was the 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Caps were down, 2-0, in the first round to Columbus (and needed to win Game 3 on the road in double overtime to essentially keep their season alive). They then lost the opener of the second round to Pittsburgh and trailed Tampa Bay, 3-2, in the Eastern Conference final before posting shutout victories in the final two games.