Vegas Golden Knights: Number One Story In NHL

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 10: The Vegas Golden Knights celebrate after defeating the Arizona Coyotes in their inaugural regular-season home opener at T-Mobile Arena on October 10, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 10: The Vegas Golden Knights celebrate after defeating the Arizona Coyotes in their inaugural regular-season home opener at T-Mobile Arena on October 10, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Its time to face facts, the Vegas Golden Knights are for real, and they aren’t going away anytime soon.

Going into the Vegas Golden Knights inaugural season fans and media members kept their expectations low. Most people (including me) had this team finishing in the 12th-14th range in the Western Conference. I just didn’t think their roster was going to be able to score enough goals and defend sufficiently.

We all knew the strength on this team was in net with Marc-Andre Fleury. The thing is we couldn’t quite predict the numbers he would have because of the team’s performance around him. But if you told me before the season started that Fleury would remain out of action for two months, I would’ve said 15th place finish. However, this team has overcome all the odds in goal, their offense is one of the best in the league, and the blue line has a ton of depth.

This team has proved everyone wrong from day one. An emotional first victory in franchise history against Dallas after the October 1st Las Vegas massacre. Then they come home and give the fans something to cheer about with a 5-2 win over the Coyotes. From there, the Golden Knights didn’t look back.

What boggles my mind the most about this Knights squad is the emergence of so many players. Sure, people would’ve expected James Neal and Jonathan Marchessault to be having great campaigns. But more than half a dozen players have stepped up to the plate and exceeded expectations.

Did you guys expect William Karlsson to be second on the team in goals with 16 and second in points with 28? How about Colin Miller recording 19 points for the first time in his career? And did anyone think Nate Schmidt would average over 22 minutes a night? Keep in mind it’s only Christmas.

These are prime examples that the Vegas Golden Knights are the land of opportunity. It’s simple, if you play to Head Coach Gerard Gallant’s hard work style of play, you’ll get more playing time. Ask Shea Theodore; his ice time rose exponentially since being paired with veteran defenseman Deryk Engelland.

When general manager George McPhee put this roster together, he made sure that it would fit Gallant’s style of coaching. Grinders such as Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Tomas Nosek, and William Carrier relished this opportunity. That unit imparticular has done a fantastic job in even strength and penalty killing situations.

And who could forget the infamous goaltending situation earlier this season? The Golden Knights had three of their top four goaltenders on the depth chart out due to injury. The team had no other choice but to start Maxime Lagace on a nightly basis.

For what he was worth, Lagace did a decent job with the expansion franchise. He posted a 6-6-1 record while registering a 3.79 GAA and a save percentage of .872%. Those numbers aren’t flashy by any stretch of the imagination, but earning six wins in 14 games played as a fourth-string goaltender is a success in my book.

Even Oscar Dansk had done a great job before he went out with an injury. He went undefeated going 3-0-0 with a 1.78 GAA and .946 SV%. He’ll also be the answer to a trivia question one day as the team’s first shutout in franchise history.

One of the most surprising performances of them all has to be Malcolm Subban. He has been an absolute stud since coming back from his lower body injury. To think he was a waiver claim right before the season begin. Makes you wonder what the Boston Bruins were thinking putting him on waivers and not even considering him in trade talks.

Subban has been one of McPhee’s biggest steals. Subban has an 8-2-0 record with a 2.30 GAA and sparkling .922 SV%. Not only has Subban exceeded everyone’s expectations, but one day he may take over the number one job that’s currently held by the Flower.

Fleury has been sensational whenever he takes the crease for the Golden Knights. The Sorel, Quebec native is 6-1-1 with a GAA of 1.98, and a save percentage of .938%. The Flower has been sharp since he came back from his concussion and still has a stranglehold on the clubs starter position for at least a few more years.

Mix all of this together, and you get first place in the Pacific division AND Western Conference. We may have a long way to go but this start from a team that’s in its inaugural season can’t be denied. I don’t know how this season finishes, but it’s been an incredible ride thus far.

Next: Vegas Golden Knights: Marc-Andre Fleury Shuts Out Capitals.

All in all, no one in the NHL expected the Vegas Golden Knights being this strong of a hockey club. But here they are at the Christmas break second in the NHL right behind the Stanley Cup favorite Tampa Bay Lightning.  It’s time to start taking this team as a threat; they’re one of the best teams in hockey. Period.