Capitals vs Golden Knights

Golden Knights vs. Capitals: Predictions, odds, schedule for 2018 Stanley Cup Final

The 2018 Stanley Cup finalists are set, and it’s … not at all who most people predicted.

The Capitals, a poster child for playoff heartbreak in their 43 years of existence, meet the Golden Knights, an expansion team seeking to complete the most improbable championship run in the history of North American professional sport. The series begins Monday, May 28, in Las Vegas, and could extend all the way to June 13, when a Game 7 would become the cherry on top of what’s been one of the most unpredictable Stanley Cup playoffs in recent memory.

MORE: Watch the Stanley Cup Final on fuboTV (7-day free trial)
Golden Knights (-139) vs. Capitals (+126): Schedule, picks, predictions

Game 1: May 28 at Vegas, 8 p.m. (NBC, CBC, Sportsnet, fuboTV)
Game 2: May 30 at Vegas, 8 p.m. (NBC, CBC, Sportsnet, fuboTV)
Game 3: June 2 at Washington, 8 p.m. (NBC, CBC, Sportsnet, fuboTV)
Game 4: June 4 at Washington, 8 p.m. (NBC, CBC, Sportsnet, fuboTV)
*Game 5: June 7 at Vegas, 8 p.m. (NBC, CBC, Sportsnet, fuboTV)
*Game 6: June 10 at Washington, 8 p.m. (NBC, CBC, Sportsnet, fuboTV)
*Game 7: June 13 at Vegas, 8 p.m. (NBC, CBC, Sportsner, fuboTV)

This time last year, the fledgling Golden Knights had yet to select their roster. The wildest of imaginations couldn’t have anticipated they would be playing for a championship less than 12 months later. Even the hometown sports books weren’t enthusiastic, offering opening odds ranging from 150-1 to 500-1 for Vegas to win the Stanley Cup in its first year, a feat never accomplished in the NHL, let alone sports history.

How Vegas became the most successful expansion team in sports history

Led by Marc-Andre Fleury and his band of Golden Misfists, the Knights passed the preseason over/under of 26.5 wins by Jan. 2, toppled their projected season point total of 68.5 on Jan. 30 and won the Pacific Division on the way to setting every NHL expansion team record in the book.

As an encore, they sliced through the Western Conference playoff field, losing only three games out of 15 to reach the Stanley Cup Final. In completing the feat, they’d join the likes of 2016 Premier League champion Leicester City and the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Olympic hockey team as the biggest long-shot champions ever.

The Capitals faced tall odds of their own, though the difference between these two franchises couldn’t be more stark. Cursed by decades of playoff disappointments, this year’s Capitals are a shell of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning juggernauts that perennially fell short in the Alex Ovechkin Era. After losing the first two games to the Blue Jackets in the opening round, it seemed they were headed for a similar fate.

MORE: Golden Knights among biggest betting long shots in sports history

Washington has gone 12-5 since, vanquishing the rival Penguins, a frequent foil in recent years, and their Game 7 demons to advance to the franchise’s first conference finals and Stanley Cup Final since 1998, when it was swept by Detroit.

Ovechkin, now 32, followed up an age-defying rebound season in which he led the NHL with 49 goals to author his greatest performance yet in pursuit of his elusive first Cup, joining runningmates Evgeny Kuznetsov and Braden Holtby as Conn Smythe front-runners.

Therein lies the great irony of this matchup. On one side, an opportunity to vindicate all previous shortcomings by delivering D.C. its first major professional sports championship since 1991. On the other, a franchise that knows only success, attempting to finish off a dream first season in the Sin City, of all places.

Sporting News’ NHL experts Brandon Schlager, Evan Sporer and Jim Cerny make their series predictions below.