The Vegas Golden Knights are blazing a trail to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time in their fledgling history. The franchise made a decisive impact in their inaugural campaign in the NHL, stunning the league to progress all the way to the Finals.
They were soundly beaten by the Washington Capitals by a 4-1 margin. After taking a step back in their next season, the Golden Knights were back on form in the 2019/20 term. They finished top of the Western Conference and surged their way through to the Conference Finals, only to suffer a defeat to the Dallas Stars.
Vegas has bounced back from their loss and is making yet another charge to win their first Stanley Cup. Peter DeBoer and his team are in a strong position and are backed in the NHL odds at +550 to win the crown. There will be a long road ahead of the franchise in the post-season, but DeBoer has a potent roster that has met challenges throughout the campaign and will be desperate for success having come so close to achieving their goal.
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Max Pacioretty has been nothing short of outstanding since his move to the Golden Knights in 2018. The left-wing has excelled in the final third, notching 54 goals and 52 assists in his first two seasons with the franchise. Pacioretty has maintained his high standards in the current campaign, leading the Golden Knights’ goal tally with 24 efforts to his name. The 32-year-old has been absent with an undisclosed injury in the final stages of the season. DeBoer will be praying that Pacioretty can return to the ice in time for the post-season. Vegas might be okay without his presence in the early rounds, but against the elite teams in the NHL, the franchisee will need their goal scorer.
Mark Stone has been equally impressive in his three seasons with the Golden Knights. The 28-year-old has provided the ammunition for Pacioretty among others to feast in the final third. In his opening 83 games, he contributed 48 assists and 26 goals. Stone has thrived on the right-wing under DeBoer with a team-leading 40 assists in the current campaign. Shea Theodore has offered ample support to Stone up from the back. The onus will be on the two players to keep firing throughout the playoffs to keep their top-five offense on song.
The Golden States have the best defense in the league statistically heading into the post-season. No team in the NHL has conceded fewer goals than DeBoer’s men this term. The performances of Marc-Andre Fleury has played a significant role in their success at the back. Fleury boasts an outstanding save percentage of .927 in 35 games this term. Of those 35 games, the Vegas Knights have triumphed on 25 occasions. His importance to the side cannot be understated, as the only saying goes, defense wins championships.
Alec Martinez has been a rock in front of Fleury. No player in the NHL has blocked more shots than the defenseman over the course of the campaign. The 33-year-old has provided a defensive shield and leadership for his team. Alex Pietrangelo has also been on the mark following his move from the St Louis Blues. He has been an astute signing and has provided a strong backfield tandem with Martinez. A trifecta of Fleury, Martinez, and Pietrangelo will be key in the crux moments of the playoffs, especially if Pacioretty is sidelined. More will be required of the stoic defense to keep their opponents at bay.
The Vegas Golden Knights have performed very well indeed to move themselves into position for a Stanley Cup run. However, it will take flawless performances throughout the playoffs for them to realize their dream of lifting the trophy for the first time.