Ladies and gentlemen, your first place in the Pacific Division – Vegas Golden Knights!
Who would have thought after Thanksgiving in their inaugural season the Knights would lead a division containing the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks?
Many thought VGK owner Bill Foley did a tremendous job in hiring George McPhee as general manager – a guy who basically built a consistent contender in Washington. He targeted and signed Gerard Gallant as the first coach in Golden Knights history. Gallant has looked like the perfect fit thus far as the Knights have even survived all the injuries at goaltender.
Up next – the expansion draft, which centered around acquiring Stanley Cup Champion goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from Pittsburgh. While that was the headline grabber, McPhee wheeled and dealed over 72 hours, acquiring two first-rounders in the first ever NHL Entry Draft for VGK landing three Top 15 prospects, ideally impacting the team over the next few seasons. Wrapped up with the hope of developing a young superstar or two, he also acquired other picks the next two years, stockpiling youth to build from the bottom up – usually the fastest way to success in sport.
As for the 2017-2018 season, optimistic hockey fans thought maybe a playoff berth. The realists thought just outside the playoffs with a 10-game season-ending stretch of making the 8th seed. The pessimists said dead last – building a winning expansion team in one year doesn’t happen.
So how did we get here?
The perfect storm it seems. McPhee and Gallant deserve a ton of credit for picking players that somehow have come together as if Vegas had been in the league for years. The team plays together and has had a lot more depth and scoring than expected. Now the question is, can it last? While I am still not convinced they are a division winning group, I think it’s likely the Knights will be playing in the playoffs in 2018.
Crazy, but they look to be for real and going for a record 6 straight wins.
Tuesday, Dallas at Vegas
STARS +130, VGK -150
Now that at least the backup goaltender, Malcolm Subban, is back in the fray, the Knights have to be even more respected at T-Mobile Arena. Not only are they 9-1 at home, Subban has a 4-0 record with a 1.87 goals against average. Meanwhile, the road has not been kind to the Stars at 3-8-1. Dallas (12-10-1) will remember the first time these two teams played as dropping the home opener to Vegas, but that revenge angle won’t be enough. VEGAS
Thursday, Vegas at Minnesota
VGK +135, WILD -155
The first trip to Minnesota (11-9-3) will come at a time the Wild have really been in a lot of OVER games, combining with the opposition 7.33 goals in the last six. I am not one for trends and get the feeling that with a total likely at 6, it’s a good shot to take the total. UNDER
Friday, Vegas at Winnipeg
VGK +160, JETS -180
Visitors to Vegas have seen how difficult it is to win at T-Mobile Arena. The Jets have a similar home ice as they have one of the loudest arenas in the NHL. Winnipeg has posted a 14-6-3 record, tied with Vegas at 31 points at press time. The Jets at home are 7-2-1 this is a spot to go against the Knights. JETS
Sunday, Arizona at Vegas
COYOTES +165, VGK -185
While the Coyotes have been playing better after a horrendous start, they are 0-2-1 against Vegas thus far and aren’t likely to pull the upset in T-Mobile. But after the long way back from Winnipeg, the Knights might be a little winded, which should affect the defense. I will look toward the total here just in case Arizona gets out of the gate early. OVER
Last Week: 1-1-1