One could say it is the most wonderful time of the year as the school year coming to an end and the NHL playoffs are less than a week away.
Since 2000 there has been 30 teams fighting for a playoff spot, but this year it was harder for the teams in the Western Conference to reach the coveted post-season, as another team has been added to the mix, the surprising Vegas Golden Knights,
When it was announced that Vegas would be become the league’s most recent expansion team, everyone thought NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was crazy. Why bring a hockey team to the desert when there already is one that is always rumored to be relocated?
Apologies to the Arizona Coyotes, but an average attendance of 13,124, the third-worst in the NHL isn’t going to keep a team afloat for much longer.
The Coyotes hasn’t made hockey look attractive in the desert, which made me think the Golden Knights were going to crash and burn.
Was I ever wrong.
Flashback to June of 2017: Vegas had its own expansion draft where they got to pick one player from each team in the league that was left unprotected.
Highlights from the draft were star goaltender Marc Andre Fleury from the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh Penguins, Florida’s Jonathan Marchessault and Columbus’ William Karlsson, who are both nearing the 80-point plateau this season for the team.
There wasn’t much reason to be hopeful of Vegas’ chances heading into the season, as it was a patchwork team, assembled through the expansion draft. It takes time to build a good team, especially when you have more than 30 guys who all have different playing styles.
The Golden Knights shocked the league by winning eight of their first nine games. This is nearly unheard of for an expansion team. The team went on to prove it just wasn’t Las Vegas luck either.
Even though the team dealt with its fair share of injuries over the course of the season, they rose to the occasion. Being led by Captain James Neal, Marchessault, Karlsson and of course Fleury, the Golden Knights soared to the top of the Pacific Division.
March 26, 2018, is a day that all Vegas fans will remember. With a 4-1 victory over the hot Colorado Avalanche, the Golden Knights clinched its trip to the playoffs. They were the first expansion team in NHL history to make it to playoffs in its inaugural season.
Not even a week later the Golden Knights clinched the prestigious Pacific Division with an 11-point lead over the next closest team, the San Jose Sharks.
Being a Pittsburgh Penguins fan with that beloved ‘three-peat’ in sight, it terrifies me knowing how powerful of a team we could be meeting up with in the Stanley Cup Final this year.
Yes, I said it, the Vegas Golden Knights are a scary team.
Going into this season I didn’t think they stood a chance, but they took the odds against them and defied them.
People, including myself, turned a blind eye on Vegas, but days before its home opener, all eyes were on the city.
Las Vegas was devastated days into its first season by the Oct. 1 mass shooting during the Jason Aldean concert that left 58 people dead and hundreds more wounded. The team went on to focus on the victims, and healing the city during the Oct. 9 home opener. They didn’t just stop at the home opener though. Just last week the team retired the number 58 to pay respect to the victims forever.
It’s heartwarming to knowing that team’s miracle season coincided with Las Vegas’s efforts to recover from the tragedy.
Miracle or not, the Vegas Golden Knights have proved they’re a Stanley Cup contending team and they’re not going anywhere.
We’ll just have to wait and see how far their run will go.