The NHL hasn’t seen a new team get off to a hot start like the one the Vegas Golden Knights are experiencing in almost a century. Literally.
Vegas’ accomplishment becomes even more interesting when you consider that they’re now at nine wins (after edging the Ottawa Senators in a see-saw 5-4 contest) against established teams. Their historical peers, meanwhile, were facing other fledgling franchises.
Either way, chalk up another special bit of history as the Golden Knights improved to 9-4-0:
This didn’t just mark the first NHL win for goalie Maxime Lagace, either. Injuries have caused quite the odd rotation in the Golden Knights’ net, allowing their group to match a rather obscure rendition of the New York Islanders:
Ah, you gotta love #specificstats.
The most joyous thing about the Golden Knights is that, while they’re still expected to cool off from this unexpected, injury-defying run, the evidence is increasing that they could remain a remarkably competitive team, especially by expansion standards.
Even before this latest victory, Sportsnet’s Andrew Berkshire explained why this team might not be a “complete mirage,” and it all seems to be another feather in the cap of Gerard Gallant, who sure seems like a frontrunner for the Jack Adams so far:
The Golden Knights are top-10 in the NHL in both creating and suppressing high danger chances at even strength, making them an extremely tough team to play against.
There’s another element to this team that’s far less scientific: as I’ve argued before, the advantage of having a ragtag group of players is that they have a lot on the line. This mixture of scorers and defensemen on expiring contracts, unproven goalies (with Marc-Andre Fleury out), and other people with “chips on their shoulders” (like Reilly Smith, who was traded from Florida) make for a hungry group.
Some of their most interesting, high-appetite-types came through against the Senators on Saturday.
Jonathan Marchessault, maybe the Golden Knights player with the most money to gain or lose after his 2016-17 breakthrough, scored a goal and two assists in this one. The 26-year-old has been picking it up lately, generating three multi-point outputs in his last five games. Erik Haula was right there with him, scoring two goals and one assist. Haula’s situation is settled contract-wise, but he still has a lot to prove in the NHL.
David Perron (two assists) and James Neal (one assist) continue to put together strong cases for why they deserve security with their next contracts, whether they’re getting paid by Vegas or a different NHL team.
It wasn’t always easy for Lagace and the Golden Knights this afternoon, especially when the Senators surged back to cut a 5-2 edge to 5-4 in the third period, but they held strong.
While their schedule remains daunting in some ways, there’s also some light at the end of the tunnel. They now only have two more stops remaining on their current six-game road trip. After that, their schedule is more balanced for a while, so we might get another look at how good this team “really” is.
With nine wins in the bank, you certainly can’t dismiss them outright at this point.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.