The Vegas Golden Knights shocked the world with their historic run as an expansion team. They won their first game in team history over the Dallas Stars on the road, but that was only the beginning. That win was only the first shocker that the Golden Knights delivered. They kept winning and winning, going all the way to the Stanley Cup Final against the Washington Capitals. While they didn’t end up winning it all, they still won the Pacific and Western Conference in their first ever season as a team.
You want to know who else went to the Final as an expansion team? The St. Louis Blues in 1967-68. They have yet to win a Stanley Cup, so the Knights probably don’t want to duplicate that. In any event, that Blues team did not have anything like the regular season the Knights had.
The Knights are expected to raise a couple of banners to celebrate their Pacific Division and Western Conference Championships. It’s kind of a reminder of what could have been, but for an expansion team, they have to feel good about what they accomplished. The Knights said goodbye to a guy who played an instrumental role in their first season, James Neal.
Neal is now with the Calgary Flames, as he got off to a rough start in the first game with his new team. The Flames got pushed around by a Canucks team who will likely finish near the bottom of the league. The Knights didn’t just sit around, though, they added talent in the offseason. They had to play against him in the playoffs, but the addition of Paul Stastny takes him from Winnipeg and puts him in Vegas. The Knights welcome the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night, as they look to avoid the Vegas Flu in the opener. Head below for our free Flyers vs. Golden Knights pick on Thursday night from Las Vegas.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Vegas Golden Knights Pick
The most amazing thing about the Golden Knights in 2017-18 was their resiliency. Marc-Andre Fleury gets injured? That’s okay, we’ll just go to our backup. Uh oh, Malcolm Subban is out? Let’s go to the minor leagues and see what Oscar Dansk can do. Everything held up surprisingly well, as the Knights just relied on their offence to win games. By the time Fleury made his return, the Knights were still playing great hockey and atop the standings in the conference.
The Knights are a great team at either slowing things down and playing a defensive game, or speeding it up and opening things up with the offence. They were pretty good at both, as they finished 5th in the league in scoring with 3.27 goals per game. Conversely, Fleury had his best season yet with a 2.24 GAA and 0.927 save percentage. It’s crazy to think that after all of the success he had in Pittsburgh, his best season came in Vegas in the franchise’s inaugural season on the ice.
Losing Neal in free agency doesn’t feel good, but adding Stastny was the best case scenario for Vegas. They also added veteran Max Pacioretty in a late offseason trade with the Canadiens. He figures to replace left winger David Perron’s production. The Flyers’ roster remains largely unchanged, but they added ex-Maple Leaf James van Riemsdyk. He is a hit-or-miss kind of player. Some nights he has it and others he looks lazy and disinterested. The speed on the Knights may give him some issues here.
Brian Elliott is expected to get the start in net after his numbers slipped again a season ago. He’s gone from a 2.07 GAA with the Blues in 2015-16 to a 2.66 GAA in 2017-18 in Philadelphia. There’s going to be a ton of energy in the T-Mobile Arena tonight. This team is going to be determined to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke. It’s going to be hard to replicate what they did, but they’re likely to have another solid season. The Knights went 29-10-2 at home for good reason. Teams got too caught up in the environment in Las Vegas. The Flyers catch the “flu” in the season opener, as Vegas quiets the doubters again on Thursday evening. As is standard protocol with me through the first month or two of the NHL, this play is less than a unit for me.