Knights fans it's time to talk playoffs
March 20, 2018 3:05 AM
by Alan Berg
With 10 games left, 46 wins earned, 97 points acquired, Las Vegas has been taken on quite a ride in the first major professional franchise in city history thanks to the Golden Knights.
Now that it seems clear the playoffs are locked in and a likely inaugural season Pacific Division Title, let’s talk about what the expectations should be for Knights fans.
Vegas is about to enter an entirely new world. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are as much about skill as they are outworking the other team nightly. It is very hard for a roster with a bunch of new pieces to make a deep run into the playoffs, let alone a completely new team.
However, the good news is VGK has experience in some key places. Second leading points scorer David Perron has 42 games of playoff experience, 11 of which came last year for the St. Louis Blues. Reilly Smith played in the playoffs with Boston and Florida compiling an impressive eight goals and five assists in 18 career games.
The two that come with the most experience are star forward James Neal and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Neal has played in 80 playoff games, including last year’s Cup final with Nashville, and has 25 goals and 19 assists. He did struggle in the postseason last year only tallying six goals and three assists in 22 games and a career playoff run worst -8 plus/minus rating.
Fleury was a three-time Stanley Cup Champion with Pittsburgh. In the first Cup run back in 2008-09, he was the No. 1 goalie for the team, going 16-8 with a 2.61 GAA. Last season he helped the Penguins through the Stanley Cup playoffs as the backup, starting 15 games due to the injury to Pittsburgh’s No. 1 goalie Matt Murray. Fleury went 9-6 with a 2.56 GAA. In other words he’s got the stuff to do it one more time.
I am not quite convinced the Knights have enough to win three series in a very competitive Western Conference to get to the Stanley Cup Finals. My guess is they definitely make it out of the opening round, get taken to the limit in the West Semifinals but survive. The likely opposition if they make it that far is Conference leader Nashville, 13-0-1 in the last 14, seizing control of the lead seven points clear of Vegas. The Golden Knights could catch the Predators in the Western Conference standings, but they will have to hope Nashville cools off and the Knights start a massive win streak. Without home ice throughout the playoffs, Vegas might not pull it off.
Vancouver at Vegas
The Canucks are heading in the wrong direction, losing six straight, with only one win in the last 10. With all the things Vegas has to play for, this will be a tough spot for the eliminated Vancouver club that’s likely thinking of next year. KNIGHTS -1.5
Vegas at San Jose
If the Sharks have a chance to close the eight point gap in the Pacific Division, they will, at the very least, sweep the two meetings with Vegas left on the schedule.
San Jose has won four straight going into a home stand against New Jersey on Tuesday. The Sharks have to end strong to hold off the Ducks and Kings in the division so I expect a great effort from them at home. SHARKS
Vegas at Colorado
After a rivalry game at San Jose two nights prior, this might be a bad spot for the Knights running into a another team that has been playing good hockey.
Colorado is in the middle of a very tight race for the last two wild card spots in the Western Conference. They sit three points back of Minnesota in the Central and have a two-point lead over the Kings and Stars for the top wild card position. This game will just mean more to Colorado. AVALANCHE
Colorado at Vegas
Assuming the Avs do take care of Vegas up in the Mile High City, Vegas should be very motivated to come up and end the two-game losing streak I am projecting here. Either way, depending on Saturday, I am expecting a split. KNIGHTS