Sidney Brown covers the NHL for WARR
I know that most of America is paying attention to the NBA Playoffs, and rightfully so with all the LeBron GOAT chasing and Golden State Warriors playing with Houston like a cat with a ball of yarn — who could possibly take their eyes off all that.
In any given year I as a NHL enthusiast would be left to simply shouting out the ever-present competitive nature of the NHL playoffs, maybe cite the continuous physicality and close games, the intensity, the inability to see what’s coming ahead, which unfortunately is lacking in the NBA.
Those are good arguments, maybe not the most compelling, but they’re evergreen at least. I have to say this year has provided a feel good story that has rarely been matched not only in the history of the hockey but in the history of major sports and on its own it provides a great argument as to why the NHL deserves its own look every playoff season.
The Las Vegas Golden Knights have blazed through the Western Conference to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in their first year of existence. Yes, an expansion franchise, a franchise who didn’t have one player signed to their roster a year ago today, will be competing for the biggest prize in their sport, a (nearly) unprecedented feat in modern sports.
Most experts picked the Knights to be competitive at best, but no one saw this incredible ride coming. The Knights began their season as a much needed distraction in the shadow of horrific gun violence nine days before the opener, got off to a good enough start to draw attention league-wide at the all-star break as Vegas was placed near the top of the Western Conference. From there the momentum didn’t cease even though everything we’ve known about major sports told us that no expansion team could keep up play that set the tone for a entire league.
All of a sudden its playoff time and the Golden Knights are eliminating past powerhouses in the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and the Winnipeg Jets to make history in front of our eyes. Just how did this story unfold?
First, Golden Knights general manager George McPhee who selected players who were salary cap casualties and who had something left in the tank.
Secondly, head coach Gerard Gallant set the tone of hard nose hockey with a Us Against the World mentality, which caught opponents by surprise all year long.
Finally, if the playoffs would end today, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury would be your Conn Smythe Trophy winner for playoff MVP with his stellar play in net. It was truly a gift that the Golden Knights were able to pick up such an experienced and still-worthy player at the most important position on the ice.
Lets also give credit to James Neal, Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, David Perron and Reilly Smith for providing veteran leadership for Vegas both on and off the ice.
Ponder this statistic as well, the Golden Knights never trailed in their Western Conference Finals series against the Jets after losing Game 1 — a run of 240 consecutive minutes either tied or with a lead. That kind of play will win out during any playoff season, this team has had a season to get to know each other and it is seemingly working at its best at the most important time.
As the Golden Knights’ improbable run has materialized the question has emerged as to whether this story is good for the NHL? The question should be how can the league promote this storyline for all of America to enjoy?
The Washington Capitals battle the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals’ Game 7 Wednesday evening to produce the other half of this year’s Stanley Cup Final. Get the latest odds at BetNow Sportsbook on the Eastern Conference Finals Game 7.
A most intriguing matchup would be Las Vegas facing the Caps and superstar Alex Ovechkin, who is in search of his first Cup. Also, GM McPhee would be facing his former club who still features many players he drafted years ago. Regardless of whether Washington or Tampa Bay skates against the Golden Knights, this year’s Stanley Cup Final should be one for the ages because of the presence of its first-year wonder.
To the city of Las Vegas, the state of Nevada and their fans, enjoy the moment. More history may be around the corner for this first year franchise, its only four more wins away.
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