All season, the Vegas Golden Knights have looked to goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to lead the way, on and off the ice, as they have navigated a long, hard road from expansion hopAll season, the Vegas Golden Knights have looked to goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to lead the way, on and off the ice, as they have navigated a long, hard road from expansion hopeful to one of the final two teams remaining at the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Now trailing the Washington Capitals 3-1 in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final, Vegas needs Fleury, one of the few playoff veterans on the team, more than ever. Fleury has won the Stanley Cup three times and had 115 postseason games of experience entering the playoffs. He knows what it means to be facing long odds in a series.
The Vegas Golden Knights hosted the NHL Expansion Draft at T-Mobile Arena on June 21, 2017. After collecting castoffs from 30 established teams, general manager George McPhee sat on stage for a roundtable discussion before thousands of fans. He listed the great experiences of his hockey career and left room for one more. "The Stanley Cup is going to be up there," he said. The fans cheered.
As the Golden Knights head into game one of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Washington Capitals, the city of Las Vegas is seriously backing its team by launching the #nocaps campaign, boycotting all capital letters. The city tweeted out a photo shopped version of the famous “Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” sign on Friday, with no capital letters.
They haven't suffered enough? Really? There is this notion that the Vegas Golden Knights don't deserve to play in the Stanley Cup Final, let alone win the Cup, because they're in their inaugural season and haven't paid their dues. It's understandable. Some cities and teams have been suffering for decades, and this upstart waltzes into the NHL and makes winning look easy. It's like Vegas cut in line. Frustrating. Infuriating, even. But consider this:
Last summer, when it was time for bookmakers to release the odds on the upcoming NHL season, the expansion Vegas Golden Knights were an afterthought. According to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, they had the worst chance to win the Stanley Cup of any team in hockey, at 200-1. How long are those odds? The Cleveland Browns, who are perennially terrible, currently have much better odds (100-1) to win the 2019 Super Bowl.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's first trip to Las Vegas was a colossal bust. In 2013, the French-born winger's Skellefteå AIK won the Swedish Hockey League championship, and the team splurged with a weeklong trip to Vegas. Upon arriving at the airport, Belle-mare was told that his passport -- which didn't have a necessary biometric chip -- was no good. So instead, he spent the week holed up at his mother's house in France. Naturally, it rained every day.
Imagine reading this a year ago.
We know now that a successful regular-season team can be built on the backs of everyone else’s third- and fourth-liners and fourth, fifth and sixth defensemen.
Although Los Angeles and Vegas split the regular-season series, one team appears to have the upper hand when analyzing the matchup in seven different categories. Here are the keys to victory, along with a series pick.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves, David Perron had a goal and an assist, and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 Thursday night in a matchup of conference leaders. James Neal, Nate Schmidt and William Karlsson also scored for the Golden Knights, who swept the two-game season series with the NHL-leading Lightning.
Another game, another starting goalie, another win for the Vegas Golden Knights. Oscar Dansk, in his first NHL career start, made 29 saves to help lift the Golden Knights to a 4-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday. With No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and backup Malcolm Subban injured, Dansk stepped in to give Vegas (7-1-0) its fourth straight win. The Golden Knights became the first team in the 100-year history of the NHL to win seven of its first eight games in its inaugural season.
It was impossible to walk or drive around Las Vegas this week and not have that hashtag engrained in your mind. It was everywhere. On billboards, hotel exteriors and hand-written signs taped to fences. It has become a common hashtag for a community to rally around following adversity, but Las Vegas isn't your typical community, as a tourist oasis for many. Most people who pass through for the weekend view it as a lovable punchline, a place where you quote lines from "The Hangover" and "Swingers" and promise yourself you'll never return -- before you invariably do a few months later.
The one position that was supposed to be set was goaltender, with Calvin Pickard backing up Marc-Andre Fleury. Vadim Shipachyov was supposed to be the No. 1 center after signing a two-year, $9 million contract as a free agent in May. Forward Alex Tuch and defenseman Shea Theodore were good enough in the preseason to make the team. So why did the Vegas Golden Knights claim goaltender Malcom Subban off waivers from the Boston Bruins and trade Pickard to the Toronto Maple Leafs last week, even though general manager George McPhee said Subban wasn't ready to play? Why did they assign Shipachyov, Tuch and Theodore to Chicago of the American Hockey League? Why do they still have nine defensemen on the roster?
The buzz built throughout the league. Players on the 30 non-expansion clubs chattered about what it would be like to play a road game against the NHL's newest franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights. After years of looking to Las Vegas purely as an offseason vacation hotspot, from this season forward they would be taking important business trips to Sin City. That curiosity and anticipation was altered after a mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 left 58 people who were attending a country music festival dead and hundreds more injured.
Less than five minutes into his NHL preseason debut, Golden Knights first round pick Cody Glass lifted a rolling puck into the air, just behind the back of a Canucks’ defenseman. The puck landed softly on the ice, right on the tape of Tyler Wong’s stick. Wong finished the play by beating Vancouver’s goalie for the first goal in team history. Minutes later, Glass fed another pass through three Vancouver defenders to Tomas Hyka, who easily scored.
While the veterans were on an extremely comfortable flight to China, the Canucks young’uns gave the Las Vegas (Golden) Knights their introduction to the NHL. Essentially, the Canucks were the video game tutorial and, since the Knights have all played the previous games in the series (the CHL, NCAA, and European leagues), the tutorial was embarrassingly easy. “The average NHL goaltender is 6’2”, but you’ll face a 5’10” goaltender to start. We’ve turned off defensive awareness for this shift, so you can try a breakaway. Press ‘X’ to try the power play mini-game again.”
Las Vegas’ first major league pro team makes its regular-season debut Oct. 6 against the Dallas Stars at their American Airlines Center, then heads to home ice Oct. 10 at T-Mobile Arena. Are you ready for the Golden Knights? Not just emotionally, but in terms of your stash of branded merchandise, plans for watch parties and opportunities to get your kids falling in love with hockey?