I believe I made a mistake. I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong. The Golden Knights aren’t going anywhere..
Vegas has 48 points, which is good for second in the NHL (tied with LA and St. Louis). They have won 15 of 18 games (15-2-1) on home ice. Two of their three starting goaltenders (Dansk/Fleury) have a sub two goals against average. Their third (Malcolm Subban), has a 2.30 goals against average. You cannot fake or discount the complete hockey club Vegas has become.
This is the most aggravating story so far this season at the Christmas break. I made the unintelligent decision to state that this team would slowly slide. It was right at the time they were getting their number one goalie back in Marc-Andre Fleury. Vegas was 23-9-2 at the holiday break, which has them atop the Western Conference. This was not supposed to happen..
Yes, it’s a great story. Yes, an astounding amount of credit needs to go to George McPhee (GM) and the entire executive crew of the Knights. However, the fact that my team may ultimately have to go through a first year expansion team to get to the finals is extremely unsettling.
They figured it out
Vegas unorthodoxly stayed competitive in the absence of Marc-Andre Fleury. In the piece mentioning their eventual slide I noted that in their time without Fleury, they had a modest +2 goal differential. Since his return, the Golden Knights have had an impressive +17 differential and have gone 8-1-1 in their last 10. They have also scored the second most goals of any West team (119). This club will be in the playoffs in mid-April.
Las Vegas has mustered up the third best goals for/per game in the NHL at 3.44, which is good for number one in the West. With their number one goalie guarding the crease they have gotten their team goals against per game down to 2.88. Two of the big keys to a solid hockey club is of course goaltending and special teams play. That can be deceiving however as the Knights score on about 20% of their power plays, but are just 79% on the PK.
One thing I won’t go back on is how hockey is a simple game. You need good goaltending and you need to score more than the other team. The Knights are great in net and are one of very few teams that have four players with 12 or more goals. I do not know how far this team will go, but they will be in the playoffs with this group of players. Ugh.
It’s not as big of a surprise as everyone thinks
Many people are trying to dissect this team and figure out how this is possible. The reality is that the new expansion rules and the amount of talent that is in the NHL make it a simple case. You’re not allowed to protect as many players as teams have been able to historically. Many teams presently have a 1 and 1a goalie tandem, which made it easier to grab a number one caliber net minder. I’m not discounting what Vegas has done, there just have to be reasons why the “experts” were all wrong about this Knights team.
Everything that needed to go well for Vegas so far this year has gone well. James Neal has been the superstar they needed as he is on pace for 41 goals. Their top two scoring leaders (Marchessault/Karlsson) are 26 and 24 and products of the league’s youth movement. Las Vegas has also turned out for every single home game thus far as they have averaged close to 18,000 fans a night at T-Mobile Arena.
I feel like the disbelief the hockey world had in this team to start the year created a massive chip on the Knights’ shoulders. They probably got to training camp, looked around and said “hey, we have a pretty good lineup here”. You never know what a team is like behind closed doors unless they’re on “The Road to The Winter Classic” for the most part. We still don’t know how far this team will go, but the more doubt that is put on them the more belief they might have in themselves.
Don’t let them be the first
This team has been great for the league this year. It has been a remarkable story. Let’s leave it at that..
Last year, the Nashville Predators almost won the Stanley Cup. That had to be one of the scariest moments for me as a hockey fan. Yes, kids were picking up mini sticks and discovering how great hockey is in the music city for the first time, but no. You don’t just get to receive that trophy after 19 years of existence when my people have been waiting over 50 years..
Many would have been alright with that, but no one outside of the original six should be okay with an expansion team winning it in their first year. Belief is a funny thing in pro sports. This team has gone toe-to-toe with the best in this league this year and beaten them. This could happen if we don’t try and put a halt to this immediately..
I hope no one but my team wins the Stanley Cup of course. However, me and all avid fans alike should agree that we do not want the Las Vegas Golden Knights to be the only first year expansion team in history to win the Stanley Cup..
Don’t let them be the first.
“From Our Haus to Yours”