Vegas Golden Knights half way to the Stanley Cup


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.