LAS VEGAS – Nothing will change for the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Golden Knights are only the third National Hockey League franchise to reach the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season. The Toronto Arenas in 1918 and St. Louis Blues in 1968 were the first two.
“We are not going to ask anything different from our guys in the next round than what we’ve done the entire year, or the entire playoffs for sure,” said Kinkora Regional High School graduate Mike Kelly of Cornwall, an assistant coach on Summerside native Gerard (Turk) Gallant’s coaching staff with the Golden Knights. “You have to be true to your identity, and our guys have been good to do that.
“They have worked on a game all year that they feel comfortable with, and we have to stick with it. We are a hard-working, four-line team that is heavy on the forecheck and backcheck. It’s no rocket science, it is what it is.”
The Golden Knights, who resume practising Wednesday, and the winner of Wednesday’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final between Tampa Bay and Washington will meet in Game 1 on Monday, May 28.
“It’s another game,” said Kelly. “Don’t focus too much on what it is, just go and do your thing. If you think too much about what it is you’re playing for as opposed to just playing, you can get side-tracked.”
Undoubtedly, there will be increased distractions in the final, but Kelly noted the Golden Knights have done a good job of managing these all season.
“Hype doesn’t win you hockey games, and other opinions do not win you hockey games,” reasoned Kelly. “Ultimately, it’s what we do. That’s what the focus has to be.”
While everyone has their own take on the Golden Knights’ success, Kelly was asked to offer his: “When you get this deep into the playoffs, it’s because you have tremendous leadership, great guys in your room and players who want to play for one another. That is happening, but our guys are also committed to getting better every time they play.
“They work real hard on their game, they take it very seriously and Turk has done a great job of keeping it as loose as possible while still asking for good solid efforts. Our guys don’t look too far ahead, they take it just one game at a time. Lots of people say that, but our guys really do it.”
Gallant and Kelly previously worked together with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the NHL’s Florida Panthers.
“I’ve known Mike for a long time,” said Gallant. “We’ve worked together for the last seven or eight years, and Mike and I have become good friends.
“The biggest part is we work well as coaches and Mike knows what I want, and I know what I need from Mike. It’s a perfect setup. Mike does a good job, he’s a real important guy for me and that’s why we work well together. We have the experience from the years in Saint John, and experience in Florida. . . It’s been excellent, we’ve been a real good team.”
While Vegas is stressing a business-like approach, Kelly did admit it’s also important to enjoy the moment.
“It’s been fun and everyone you talk to says the same thing,” said Kelly. “Obviously, we are in the middle of it, but at the same time it’s been so much fun that you really do have to take advantage of enjoying it when you’re in it. . . If you don’t enjoy it, you’re making a big mistake.”
The Western Conference Final series marked a return to familiar territory for Vegas Golden Knights assistant coach Mike Kelly of Cornwall.
The Golden Knights faced the Winnipeg Jets, who play in the same arena where Kelly spent the 2005-06 season as an assistant coach with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League under Alain Vigneault.
“A lot of the same people who worked with us with the Moose are now with the Jets,” said Kelly. “Their assistant GM Craig Heisinger, Mark Chipman, the owner, and a few of the trainers and equipment guys. I really enjoyed the time in Winnipeg when I worked there. It was a fantastic place to live, and an absolute first-class organization to work for.”
Kelly said, with both the Golden Knights and Jets playing in front of rabid fans, it was an exciting series to be a part of.
“That was a pretty wild building in Winnipeg,” noted Kelly. “I thought our building was wild, but theirs is the same – it’s as loud. There are very passionate fans in Winnipeg.”