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History in Las Vegas

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Wikimedia Commons

Bradley Stewart, Sports Editor

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They weren’t supposed to be here.  Expansion teams aren’t supposed to make the playoffs, much less the finals.  Yet, overcoming 500:1 odds at the beginning of the season, the Vegas Golden Knights, in the inaugural season, are in the Stanley Cup Finals.  The Golden Knights are so new that their team name and logo aren’t officially registered with the United States Patent & Trademark Office. Only one other expansion team has made the Stanley Cup Finals in their first season.  Yet, when that team made the finals, they were one of six expansions team added to the Original Six teams.

Vegas is as close to a team of rejects as you can get in professional sports.  When the National Hockey League (NHL) announced that a new franchise would be joining the league, each team had the option to select players they wanted to keep “safe,” during the expansion draft.  The Golden Knights had the choice to pick players that weren’t saved from every team in the league. For some teams, like the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was hard to choose who to save, for others, not so much.  The Penguins had, arguably, two of the top goalies in the league, but, because of the expansion draft rules, could only save one. This allowed Vegas to select Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been the centerpiece of the franchise since his selection.  Fleury had the second best goals against average mark and was top six in save percentage, .004% away from first.

When the season began, no one really believed that the Golden Knights would be able to contend for the playoffs.  But, after winning eight of their first nine games, Vegas suddenly became the team to beat. Although that dominance wasn’t sustainable, the Golden Knights continued to be one of the best in the league.  Their most dominating stretch of the season was from December to January, where they won twelve of thirteen games, with the lone loss coming in a shootout to the Carolina Hurricanes.

By the time the playoffs came around, Vegas was in first place in the Pacific Division by four games.  The Golden Knights, also, had the best goal differential in the division at the end of the season. Some questioned whether or not Vegas’ dominance would be able to extend into the postseason.  A month and half later, the Golden Knights won all three of their series with ease. In the first round, Vegas swept the Los Angeles Kings, only allowing three goals in the four games. They followed that up with a 4-2 series victory in the Conference Semifinals over the San Jose Sharks.  In the Conference Finals, the Winnipeg Jets won the first game. Vegas responded by winning four in a row to send them to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Washington Capitals, where they open the series as -160 favorites to take home the Cup.

The Golden Knights embody the definition of a team.  They don’t have any true superstars.  If you look at their team, you probably have heard of, at most, two. They are a collection of rejects, playing with the ultimate chip on their shoulder.  No one saw this coming, but it proves that if a team plays as a group and puts the team before themselves, anything is possible.  

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