Vegas Marches to the Stanley Cup Final
The remarkable story of the Vegas Golden Knights continues with a run to the Stanley Cup.
The Western Conference Champions ousted the favored Winnipeg Jets in five games, winning four straight to close out the series.
In the Golden Knights series clinching 2-1 win, it had quite the Pittsburgh connection.
There’s Marc Andre Fleury putting together a 31 save performance to close out the series, Ryan Reaves a major outcast in the Penguins system, scoring the game winning goal, and Deryk Engelland playing 23 minutes in Game 5 and on the ice for the final minute of play to preserve a one-goal lead and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
Vegas reaching the Stanley Cup Final has already cemented them as one of the greatest stories in NHL history and winning the Cup would turn it into one of the greatest stories ever among the four major sports.
There are just so many things that have transpired that no one could foresee coming.
How so many average/good players on this roster have come together to play like stars and superstars in a few cases has been something never seen.
Expansion team or not, it is so rare in how many players on this roster have significantly outperformed their career marks/projections:
Marc Andre Fleury (.947 SV% in 2018 postseason, .913 Career SV%), William Karlsson (*43 goals, *73 pts), Jonathan Marchessault (27 Goals, *75 Pts, Reilly Smith (22 Goals, *60 Pts), David Perron (16 Goals, *66 Pts), the list goes on and on.
Even beyond the stats, a major hole viewed by many with the Golden Knights roster when it came to winning in the postseason was the lack of a No. 1 defenseman.
Nate Schmidt isn’t a true No. 1 but he’s played like it for Vegas as they’ve stormed through the West.
And that’s what makes this run so remarkable in how so many played have elevated their play to levels never expected or even imagined.
Fleury’s Hall-of-Fame Case Starting to Emerge
— Everything for Vegas in marching to the Cup Final starts with their speed game, relentless puck pursuit game and Marc Andre Fleury.
Fleury is right now playing at an unreal level.
He’s 12-3 in the playoffs with a 1.68 GAA and .947 save percentage.
In the final four games of the Western Conference Finals, Fleury posted a save percentage of .956.
Pittsburgh never saw this type of goaltending from Fleury and delivering it at age 33 is something even the biggest Fleury backer could not have seen coming, whether Fleury played in Vegas or was still in Pittsburgh.
Fleury is the face of Vegas and it’s just a fascinating situation how he ended up there with the Penguins finding no trade market for the 2003 No. 1 overall pick and the General Manager in Vegas about a week before the expansion draft even mulling the possibility of flipping Fleury after the draft.
That was shutdown by Vegas owner Bill Foley who was set on keeping Fleury because of his great personality and felt Vegas needed a named player like Fleury who was likeable and who could drive interest around the community.
Despite his projection to have the win totals when his career is over that would meet Hall-of-Fame standards, there was zero reason to look at Fleury as a Hall-of-Famer goaltender prior to this season.
Absolutely no reason.
That now has to change moving forward.
There is going to be significant weight and should be to what Fleury has done this season, most notably in the 2018 playoffs.
It’s not just Fleury among the former Penguins who have significantly played above even the highest expectations Vegas could have had.
Few saw David Perron coming in and having a 66 point season and I still can’t past Deryk Engelland and the high-pairing role he’s succeeded at with the Golden Knights.
Deryk Engelland averaging 22 minutes a game in the playoffs for a team in the Stanley Cup is another shocking development with the Amazing Knights.