When the season started in October, nobody of sound mind expected that in June the Vegas Golden Knights would be doing anything other than gearing for the NHL Draft while their players enjoyed their offseason.
In reality though, the Vegas Golden Knights have been superb in their first year in the NHL, but could see that season come to an end tonight as they trail the Washington Capitals 3 – 1 going into game five of the Stanley Cup final.
But no matter what happens tonight, the Golden Knights have had success beyond their wildest dreams.
Even their coach Gerard Gallant has acknowledged the miracle that this season has been saying “Let’s face it. We started the season, and there was no expectations for our hockey club.”
In October the only thing you’d assume the Golden Knights would be competing for would be the first pick in the draft, not the Stanley Cup.
Vegas have had plenty of opportunities in this series to get a hold on it, they won game one and then they’ve had either a ridiculous save by Braden Holtby deny them, or Holtby’s best friend, his goalposts, denying James Neal in game four. Either way, Vegas need to make all their chances count tonight to try and extend this series and send it back to DC.
They’ve turned the T Mobile Arena into a fortress this year, posting a huge 36-14 record in the regular season and playoffs, with only two home losses in the playoffs so far coming from the Sharks in Round 2, and the Capitals in game two of this series.
Marc-Andre Fleury was having a Conn Smythe worthy playoffs until the final. Through the first three rounds he had a .947 save percentage, but in the four games against the Caps its .845%. He has to step up in this game, but a guy with his resumé and playoff experience I’m sure he’ll step up to the plate tonight and put his team in the best position possible to avoid seeing Washington lift the trophy in Sin City.
The Golden Knights will have William Karlsson in the lineup for game five after the teams leading scorer in the regular season missed an opitional practice ahead of the elimination game. Karlsson posted 43 goals in the regular season, and has been one of the teams leading men again in the post season.
For Vegas to have success tonight, they’ll need Karlsson and is his linemates Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith firing on all cylinders.
The top line has done well this post season but needs to get back into gear in game five. Through four games, the top line has a collective three goals between them, while Smith is performing well with 4 points overall, Karlsson (who may be banged up) and Marchessault have 2 points between them.
Compare that to just Evgeni Kuznetsov of the Capitals, he posted four points in game four, and has 7 points in the final as he closes in on a potential Conn Smythe trophy.
Hope isn’t lost for Vegas, they’ve never lost more than three games on the bounce, but it’s going to be a tough ask against the Capitals tonight.
But if you ask a Golden Knights fan at the start of the season that they were going to lose in the Stanley Cup Finals, they’d probably take it.
It’s not over yet though.