Vegas Golden Knights co-favorites to win Stanley Cup
April 19, 2018 8:04 AM
by Mark Mayer
Last year at this time, the Vegas Golden Knights were a team in name only. Now this first-year expansion franchise is like no other in any sport and, believe it or not, co favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
Yes, you heard right. The team that opened the season 200-1 with the only expectation to play every game hard and try to just compete in the Pacific Division now is at the same 4-1 odds at Westgate as the Nashville Predators, last year’s Cup finalist and ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins who are looking to three-peat.
Perhaps the world really is flat. This just isn’t supposed to happen. Vegas has trumped Trump.
The Golden Knights became the first team in the Stanley Cup playoffs to clinch a ticket to the second round after sweeping the Los Angeles Kings in four games. Vegas became the first franchise in NHL history to sweep a postseason series in its inaugural season.
Getting back to those expectations, last summer Vegas General manager George McPhee publicly declared a goal of making the playoffs in the team's third season and winning a Stanley Cup in six.
"We don't have high expectations for this year," owner Bill Foley told ESPN in August. "We're going to be competitive. If we're going to lose a game, we'd like to lose by a goal or two, not lose by five or six. We don't want to be a walkover team. We want to be competitive. We want to be entertaining on the ice. We want to score some goals."
Instead, the Golden Knights have been one of the biggest success stories across all sports. Vegas became the first NHL team to make the postseason in its inaugural season since 1979-80, when the Oilers and Whalers reached the playoffs after joining the league as part of its merger with the WHA. The Oilers featured Wayne Gretzky, while the Whalers had Gordie Howe on the roster. It was also a time when just five of the league's 21 teams didn't make the playoffs.
Station Casinos are among those trying to capitalize on the Golden Knights phenomenon, offering free bets on the team to casino loyalty members who come in to one of their establishments on April 23.
That decision came just hours after Vegas’ hometown hockey team swept the Kings in Round 1. The free wager is for qualified Boarding Pass loyalty club members, ranging in value from $5 to $250, with individual payoffs for winners of up to $1,000. Those qualifying Boarding Pass members can get in on the action for the Vegas team to win it all in the 2018 pro hockey championship. If Vegas wins the championship, Station Casinos would pay out to the lucky participants an aggregate amount that could reach up to $1 million.
Invited Boarding Pass guests can simply swipe their card at any kiosk inside a participating Station Casinos’ property next Monday from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. to receive a bet voucher that will be redeemable at any Station Casinos’ sports book if the Golden Knights wins the Cup. In addition, others interested in the free sports bet only need to earn 100 boarding pass points from playing slots, video poker and table games at Palace, Boulder, Texas, Sunset, Santa Fe, Green Valley Ranch or Red Rock casinos on April 23.
There were skeptics who believed Vegas would be a haven for visiting teams to come in and even feel like they had a home ice advantage since having a pro franchise was a brand new experience for a city that hasn’t been united about any sport since the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels of Jerry Tarkanian put the city on the college basketball map back in the 1989-90 season.
Up next for Vegas is San Jose, which also needed the minimum four games to eliminate Anaheim. Both the Knights and Sharks will have to fight rust with Game 1 at T-Mobile Arena as much as a week away pending the outcome of the remaining first round playoff games.