The NHL brought hockey to Vegas this past season with bleak hopes of just getting people to fill the arena and secure a couple of wins. No one including even NHL experts, expected the Vegas Golden Knights to dominate the regular season like they did. Vegas ended the season with 109 total points, the fifth highest in the league. The debut season in the desert ended up being the best start by an expansion team ever in NHL history, by a longshot.
The Golden Knights clinched a playoff spot and a Pacific Division title over a week before the Stanley Cup Playoffs began. Vegas was never expected to be in that position so late into the season, and the lovable first-year squad took to prove doubters wrong. Out of the 22 players that dressed in 30 or more games throughout the season, 13 of them put up career highs in points.
The team was undoubtedly led by their star Center, William Karlsson. Karlsson exploded for 43 goals this season a career high, his previous high was nine. Vegas also got surprising offensive performances from former St. Louis Blues winger David Perron who tallied 66 points on the season, a career best. Although Karlsson and Perron provided plenty of offense, the undisputed leader of this Vegas squad was in between the pipes.
Marc-Andre Fleury a three-time Stanley Cup Champion was acquired by Vegas in the expansion draft after Pittsburgh chose to protect their younger goalie Matt Murray. Fleury has put up the best save percentages and average throughout his entire career this season in Vegas, which transferred into the playoffs. The Golden Knights faced the Los Angeles Kings and handled their business sweeping LA in four games. Fleury shined in the first ever playoff series for Vegas, facing 130 shots and stopping 127 of them. Fleury had two shutouts against the Kings and finished with an incredible .977 save percentage.
Next up for the cinderella story of the NHL will be a tough series against the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks were the only other team to sweep their first-round opponent, putting on a great display of physical hockey against the Anaheim Ducks. To defeat San Jose, the Golden Knights will need to put more emphasis on their offense throughout the series. While Fleury shined in the first round, the Vegas offense had a rough go only netting seven goals.
The first round sweep was another historical milestone for Vegas as they are the first expansion team to sweep their first opponent in their debut season. The Golden Knights are only 12 wins away from hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup (easier said than done) in their first season as a team. If you are a casual hockey fan with no team in the playoffs jump on the Vegas bandwagon while you can, because it’s almost full.