The Cinderella story of the Vegas Golden Knights continues
to grow as the NHL expansion franchise is half way to the Stanley Cup. After
the most impressive first-year regular-season performance in league history,
the Golden Knights have been just as impressive in the postseason so far by
going 8-2. This includes a four-game sweep over two-time Stanley Cup champions
the Los Angeles Kings and a six-game conquest of the San Jose Sharks. The
Nevada-based squad now awaits the winner of the Winnipeg Jets vs Nashville
Predators series to see who they'll face in the Western Conference Final.
Before the 2017/18 season faced off, the Golden Knights were
approximately 500/1 to win the Stanley Cup with the oddsmakers. However, they
surprised everybody, perhaps even themselves, by finishing the season with 59
wins and 109 points. The squad is made up of players who were deemed expendable
by their original clubs as they were left unprotected in the expansion draft.
In addition, head coach Gerard Gallant had recently been let go by the Florida
Panthers before Golden Knights' general manager George McPhee picked him up.
The players and coach then took to the ice as if they had something to prove to
their previous employers.
The Golden Knights added a few solid players to the roster
during the draft with the most well-known of the bunch being forward James Neal
and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. There's no doubt the team is getting the
exceptional goaltending a Stanley Cup contender needs as the three-time Stanley
Cup winner Fleury has already posted a league-leading four shutouts in the
playoffs. He was also ranked number one in goals-against average at 1.53 and
was best in save percentage at 95.1. The offence has also been pulling their
weight and combined with their speed and physical play the Golden Knights are a
legitimate contender to win it all.
The playoff scoring has been evenly spread out as forward
Jonathan Marchessault leads the way with four goals and seven assists in 10
games and is followed by William Karlsson at four goals and six assists. Reilly
Smith has also chipped in with a goal and 10 helpers. With Alex Tuch, David
Perron and James Neal each contributing with seven points. Team-wise, the
Golden Knights are the top defensive side in the postseason with a GAA of 1.70
while the league average is 3.13.
They've scored 2.90 goals-per game with the average being 2.76 and the
penalty kill is working at an 85 per cent rate which is the second-best in the
playoffs and the average being 77.5 per cent.
If there is any room for improvement it's on the power play
where the team has been successful just 17.5 per cent of the time while the
league average is 20.7. There's no doubt the Golden Knights will have their
hands full with either the Predators or Jets as the next opponents. But if they
can keep up the pace and physicality and Fleury continues his Conn
Smythe-calibre goaltending then it looks like the sky's the limit in 2017/18
for this exciting club.
Labels: Ian Palmer