By: Doran Grieshaber, Sports Writer
The newest expansion team to join the NHL, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, have gotten off to a hot start that not many people expected. The team is 6-1 to start their first season in the league behind strong goaltending and some clutch heroics. While seven games is not a large enough sample size to determine where this season might lead, the team is certainly set up for more success from the start than most expansion teams.
During the summer, the Golden Knights went through an expansion draft that allowed them to pick one player from each of the thirty other teams, with restrictions on the number of players at each position and the overall salary of the team. Teams can protect a certain number of their players, so while most of the game’s elite forwards were protected from the draft, it did guarantee that the Golden Knights would acquire a strong defense, a veteran goalie, and some veteran presence on the forward line. While the rules of the draft were meant to protect the new team from getting completely overwhelmed in their first season, it seems that the team can immediately be a playoff competitor in the league.
The team is 6-1 to start the year, and it can be contributed both to quality of play and to their early season schedule. Even after veteran goalie Marc Andre-Fleury was lost to injured reserve, Malcom Subban and Oscar Dansk have stepped in to average 2.37 goals against as a team. Wingers James Neal, Reilly Smith, and former St. Louis Blues player David Perron have created an offense that is better than what could have been expected for a brand-new team. Although the team is playing well, the numbers could be inflated by the fact that they have played all but one of their games at home so far and have gotten to play against the likes of Detroit and Buffalo, as well as Arizona twice. The team is about to take a seven-game road trip which will be the first real test away from home ice.
In their last game, the Golden Knights defeated the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in overtime. The lone goal of the first period was scored by Magnus Paajarvi of the Blues. The Golden Knights fired back in the second period with goals scored by both Smith and Colin Miller. The Blues were able to tie up the game with five minutes remaining when Alex Pietrangelo scored his third goal of the season. In the fourth minute of overtime, William Karlsson scored a goal off an assist by Smith, ending the game.
The Golden Knights are currently sitting at 12 points on the season, one point behind the Los Angeles Kings for the lead in the Pacific Division. The team’s success will largely depend on whether their inexperienced goalies can continue to perform at this level, and if the team can produce away from Las Vegas. The team will be tested immediately on Tuesday night, as they play the Chicago Blackhawks.