It took tons of adversity, but the Vegas Golden Knights have made the NHL Playoffs. Okay, that’s a lie, there has been absolutely no adversity for the Golden Knights. They’ve been playing hot since the opening night of the season and somehow have kept it going all the way through the regular season. Not enough good things can be said about the job management did in drafting this group. The Knights acquired high character guys at the expansion draft. They brought in some key players who have had experience in the past, notably Marc-Andre Fleury any James Neal. Fleury falling into their laps had to be the best case scenario for this franchise.
If you recall, the Knights were down a portion of this year without Fleury. They were also down their backup, Malcolm Subban. The assumption was that Fleury was going to need to carry this team, but they found different ways to win. The offense was especially good, providing plenty of goal support for Oscar Dansk. The success without Fleury provided him with a nice cushion to work with when he came back.
He didn’t have to save the day for the Knights to reach the playoffs. They were already well entrenched near the top of the league. However, Fleury’s playoff experience is what the Knights are banking on. As a team, obviously, they have zero experience in the playoffs. They also had zero experience in the regular season as a team and blew away expectations and shattering records, so we’ll see how this series goes against the Kings. The Kings have played as an 8 seed before and they went all the way to the Stanley Cup in 2012. The odds favour the Knights in this first-round series, but it’s certainly understandable to watch money on the Kings come in. Head below for our Kings vs. Golden Knights pick in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
L.A. Kings vs. Vegas Golden Knights Game 1 Pick
Through the first-half of the season, the Golden Knights were virtually unbeatable at home. Teams were coming into Las Vegas thinking this was going to be a walk in the park, so let’s go out and have a good time. The offenders, and there were a lot, who didn’t take Vegas seriously took bad losses. Teams started to catch on as the season progressed, but the Knights still finished with an impressive record of 29-10-1 on home ice at the T-Mobile Arena. Overall they posted an incredible record of 51-24-4 to capture the Pacific. They averaged 3.27 goals per game for 5th in the NHL. The Knights did regress a bit there in the second-half after hovering around 2nd.
Fleury finished with a GAA of 2.24 with a 0.927 save percentage. In his last playoff appearance, he yielded a GAA of 2.56 with the Penguins. This was when he split time with Matt Murray, who ultimately took over down the stretch. The most impressive thing I can note about the Golden Knights has been their ability to adapt. Fleury got hurt and they knew that they had to speed things up and get the offense moving.
They were leaving themselves exposed on defence, but it didn’t matter with 4 or 5 goals a night. Fleury returned and the Knights were well-balanced. The goal scoring average came down, but they started playing all around hockey. Note that the Knights finished 8th in the league, allowing 2.74 goals per game. Pretty amazing for a team who were getting into 5-4 and 6-4 games regularly early in the season.
The Knights have shown the ability to adapt, while the Kings have the ability to force teams into playing how they want to play. They’re especially good at changing their identity as well. The Kings have been known for their defence over the last five or so years, though, and in 2018 they were on top in that regard. Allowing 2.46 goals per game was good for 1st in the NHL for the Kings. I don’t expect Game 1 to get too wild, it’s going to be a feeling out process. The Kings would love to turn this series into a physical slug fest, because if that’s how it goes, I don’t think the Golden Knights can get out of this series. It’s going to be the most intriguing series of the first-round, no doubt. Like I said, this should be a feeling out process with a final score of 3-2.