Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Vegas Golden Knights.
43-32-7, 93 points (3rd in the Pacific Division, 7th in the Western Conference)
Playoffs: Lost in Game 7 of Round 1 against the San Jose Sharks.
Could they have done it all over again, or even one-upped their magical inaugural season with a Stanley Cup banner in just their second season in the NHL?
Ultimately, the answer to both of those questions was no. It wasn’t because they didn’t put themselves in position to take another run at Lord Stanley. Despite putting up 16 fewer points than they did when they won the Pacific Divison crown in 2017-18 the Golden Knights, plagued by injuries at times, still managed a third-place showing to secure a second playoff spot in as many years.
And in Round 1, they seemed to be cruising with a 3-1 series lead against the San Jose Sharks.
After dropping Games 5 and 6, the Golden Knights appeared to regroup. They held a 3-0 lead in the third period, and barring disaster, would be heading off to face the Colorado Avalanche in Round 2.
Instead, disaster ensured.
A five-minute major to Cody Eakin for a phantom who-knows-still-to-this-day roughing call handed the Sharks a lifeline. And it would be used to maximum effect as the Sharks rattled off four goals in four minutes during the extended power play to lead the game.
The Golden Knights forced overtime but it only delayed the inevitable as Barclay Goodrow completed one of the zaniest comebacks in NHL history.
Heartbreak in Year 1. Hearts torn out in Year 2.
It was always going to be a tough act to follow for the Golden Knights.
Vegas set the bar for expansion teams so high in their inaugural season in 2017-18 and were tasked with following up a Stanley Cup Final appearance in just their second year.
They certainly looked well on their way prior to the season kicking off, having added Paul Stastny in free agency and Max Pacioretty via trade.
[MORE: X-factor | Three Questions | Under Pressure]
But both players battled injuries at different points during the season, including Stastny’s, which limited him to 50 games.
Vegas wasn’t the same 109-point team from the year prior, but they announced their ‘win-now’ intentions at the trade deadline to not only acquire Mark Stone from Ottawa, but also agree to a big-money, multi-year extension.
The pieces were in place until their epic collapse watched it all go out the window.
It’s been a much quieter offseason in Vegas this time around, and the biggest news has been the players who have left the club, including Nikita Gusev, Colin Miller and Erik Haula.
Gusev is considered by some to be the best player outside of the NHL. The Golden Knights signed him this past spring but couldn’t work out a deal.
Other subtractions have come with the reality of the salary cap setting in on The Strip. The scrap bin was only available for a limited time. Guys need to be paid and you can’t keep everyone.
A healthy start to the season for Stastny should improve their early-season prospects. Having Stone in the mix for a full training camp with his new club can only be a good thing, too.
And there’s no reason to suggest that the Golden Knights won’t be a playoff team for a third consecutive season.
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Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck