The Cinderella team of the National Hockey League shocked the world again as the Vegas Golden Knights advanced to the NHL Stanely Cup Final on Sunday defeating the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference Finals in five games.
When the National Hockey League kicked off the 2017-18 season, a new team was born. The Vegas Golden Knights kicked off their inaugural season as a 500-1 underdog to win the Stanley Cup.
In the words of another underdog, Han Solo, the Knights told the league and the world, “Never tell me the odds.”
On Sunday night, with an impressive 2-1 win on the road in Winnipeg, the Knights achieved what many thought would be impossible. It took only 15 playoff games this postseason for the Knights to reach the Stanley Cup Final.
They will play the winner of the Washington Capitals-Tampa Bay Lighting Eastern Conference Final. The Lightning hold a three games to two lead with Game 6 coming Monday night in South Florida.
Vegas has taken advantage of every opportunity in the postseason to reach the finals. NHL All-Star goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been playing the best hockey of his career. The team has been getting contributions from Wiliam Karlsson to James Neal, to Ryan Reeves, who had the game-winner in Winnipeg. The Knights will now get the opportunity to hoist the Stanley Cup on the Las Vegas Strip should they find four more wins.
Here, Reeves puts his team in the Stanley Cup Final with the game-winner.
The team has been playing more for the fans ever since the tragic shooting on Oct. 1 at a concert in Las Vegas. Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland put what advancing to the finals means for him and his teammates, via Scott Billeck of NHL.com,
“It means a lot to us, this is what you play for all season. After [the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 and injured hundreds more] those first games … you want to play for the city, the people that were affected by it. To make this run, win this series, it’s awesome for us, but it all comes back to the city and the people affected by that.”
General manager George McPhee put together this club with picks from the NHL Expansion Draft, the NHL Entry Draft and a few trades along the way. With head coach Gerrard Gallant, the team has exceeded everyone’s expectations in their first season competing in the NHL.
The Knights were 51-24-7 good for 109 points and first place in the Western Conference Pacific Division. In their first-round matchup against the Los Angeles Kings, they recorded another first for the organization, a first-round sweep.
They battled hard against the San Jose Sharks, needing six games to reach the Western Conference Finals.
The Knights dropped their first game against the Winnipeg Jets, but put that loss behind them quickly as they went on to win the next four straight advancing to the finals.
Vegas had another first after Sunday’s game: What to do about the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl awarded to the winner of the Western Conference Finals?
In year’s past, some teams have touched it just to take a picture, hoisted it up in celebration and some have totally ignored it all together. As this was the first real piece of “hardware” the organization has one, Deryk Engelland took a picture with it with the deputy commissioner picked up the trophy and directed his teammates to head towards the dressing room.
With their fans and the state of Nevada’s full support, the Vegas Knights will look to do what only two other NHL teams have done before them: Win a Stanley Cup in their inaugural season.
The Knights join the Toronto Arenas (1918 champions) and St. Louis Blues (1968) as the teams to reach the finals in their inaugural season.
It takes 16 wins to get the chance to carry Lord’s Stanley Cup. Each player gets his name imprinted in the bands of one of the toughest trophies to win in any of the four major sports. The Knights have a long road ahead if they want to relish in the victory of a championship celebration.
This remarkable team has been beating the odds all season and all postseason so far, as no bluffing is needed in their game. They just take whatever hand they get dealt every game and wind up with a royal flush.
The Knights hope their luck doesn’t run out now. They and all of their fans are all-in on winning a Stanley Cup.