Let's Go Knights!
By Patrick Hoffman
The Vegas Golden Knights are by far the greatest sports story in 2017-18.
Throughout their first regular season and playoffs, they have outworked opponents, beat teams they were not supposed to, finished fifth in the entire league, and won their division. None of these things were expected prior to the season.
With that said, what they accomplished today was simply unimaginable this past October. Today, they defeated the Winnipeg Jets in Game 5 by a score of 2-1 to not only win the series, but punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.
Yes, you read that right. An professional sports expansion team is just four wins away from accomplishing the improbable and winning Cup.
The Knights have a lot left to do even though their road to the Cup is the shortest it has ever been. Let's take some time to appreciate this fact.
For starters, the story of Marc-Andre Fleury is simply incredible. Here is a netminder that was left exposed (willingly) in the expansion draft by a team he was a part of three Cups with in the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Not only did he accept being taken first in the expansion draft, but he loved it and made it his own. He turned in a terrific regular season with 29 wins, a 2.24 goals against average, a .927 save percentage and four shutouts.
You think that's good? Then you will be amazed that this 33-year-old masked man has been the best player in the entire postseason. Fleury should be a front-runner to capture the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs as he has a 1.68 GAA, a .947 save percentage and four shutouts.
Another great story for this club has been the play of the misfits that were cast off by other teams. Guys like Jonathan Marchessault (18 points), Reilly Smith (16 points), and William Karlsson (13 points) don't have a lot of playoff experience, but their play in these playoffs certainly does not show that.
Players like Alex Touch, James Neal, Erik Haula, David Perron, and Nate Schmidt have revived their careers and have showed their former clubs that they made a mistake in making them available for the Knights to take. In fact, this can be said of the team's whole roster.
Lastly, the head coaching job by Gerard Gallant, who should be the clear winner of the Jack Adams Award as the league's best coach, was a masterpiece. He got this group to believe themselves, let them play their game, and have fun, and it got the team to where they are now and that's a chance to play for the Cup.
Their story is still being written and if they win four more games, than the ending will cap off what should be considered the best story in hockey.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.