Well, it’s official. The Las Vegas Golden Knights have done the downright unthinkable and have won their chance to play for the hardest trophy to win in any sport, the Stanley Cup, in their inaugural season.
The Las Vegas Golden Knights will now have more Stanley Cup appearances in the last 15 years than the following teams:
- Colorado Avalanche – 16 Season Stanley Cup Finals Drought
- Minnesota Wild – 17 Season Stanley Cup Finals Drought
- Columbus Blue Jackets – 17 Season Stanley Cup Finals Drought
- Buffalo Sabres- 18 Season Stanley Cup Finals Drought
- Washington Capitals – 18 Season Stanley Cup Finals Drought
- Florida Panthers- 21 Season Stanley Cup Finals Drought
- Montreal Canadiens – 24 Season Stanley Cup Finals Drought
- New York Islanders – 33 Season Stanley Cup Finals Drought
- Arizona Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets – 38 Season Stanley Cup Finals Drought
- St. Louis Blues – 47 Season Stanley Cup Finals Drought
- Toronto Maple Leafs – 50 Season Stanley Cup Finals Drought
That’s 40% of the league.
Before I sat down to write this piece, I took a look at the pre-2018 Stanley Cup betting odds. The Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning were both 10-1 right out of the gate, which is right where they should be. The Golden Knights? 200-1.
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200-1 odds and they are about to play for the Stanley Cup. I mean, it’s not like Vegas didn’t have faith in their hometown team. No one was expecting this from a seemingly ragtag group of misfit toys, put together for yet another team in a desert.
Instead, we got magic. Vegas magic. David Copperfield meets Sigfrey and Roy meets David Blaine meets Wayne Gretzky. It’s going to get weird in Vegas, y’all.
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How did the Knights get this far? As Sarah pointed out in her way ahead of its time article back in January, it’s been their crop of talented players, and we’re starting with Jonathan Marchessault. Over the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Marchessault has scored 8 goals and tallied 10 assists, all the while racking up an 11 +/-, the second highest. The Golden Knights have been spreading the accolades around as well, with Reilly Smith sending 16 assists to his teammates and William Karlsson dropping back from his top scorer role from the regular season.
The Keeper Between the Pipes
All of that is well and good, but the main story here is Marc-Andre Fleury. If the Golden Knights win the Cup, this is your 100% lock for the Conn Smythe. It has to be him. Coming into the playoffs, Fleury had the best season between the pipes since he joined the NHL in 2007 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Finishing the year with a Save Percentage of .927, Fleury was north of .921 for the first time in his career, considering his career average is .913.
In the playoffs, Fleury didn’t shift too far away from that mark, holding a .923 SC% in the playoffs during his tenure as a Penguin. How has he faired for Vegas? He’s holding down a .932 SV% so far. The guy is killing the game and playing like the elite goalie he is.
That’s the real story here. This is a team of guys who were put on an expansion team in Nevada, some of whom asked to be removed, and made the best of it. Marc-Andre Fleury was in the twilight of his career and is now having a Patrick Roy 2000 moment. The Knights are in the throne room, a place where no one thought they’d be.
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