For the second year in a row, Las Vegas has been inflicted with playoff fever. Two years of existence, two years of playoff beards in the city of sin. The Vegas Golden Knights shocked the world last season, when in their first season of existence they went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals before being ousted by the Washington Capitals. It was unexpected, a band of misfit toys that captured the hearts and imaginations of an entire city following a tragedy.
This season though presented a new challenge, expectations. After losing names like James Neal, David Perron, and Tomas Tatar, the Knights have put together a second line that would be the envy of most teams, let alone second year franchises.
While the front line of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith produced as expected, checking in with the top 3 most points on the team (Karlsson -56, Marchessault – 59, Smith – 53), Gerald Gallant not so quietly utilized a second line that GM George McPhee gave him to lead the team to a 3rd place finish in the Pacific division with 93 points.
First to arrive last summer was a free agent signing, Paul Stastny.
After a 2018 deadline deal that sent Stastny to the Jets, a team that was dispatched by the Knights in the Western Conference playoffs last year, Stastny hit the free agent market. Early on in the summer, Vegas gambled on the 33 year old Center. A three year $19.5 million contract was rewarded with 42 points, even with missing more than a third of the season.
The next domino to fall was the trade acquisition of Left Wing Max Pacioretty on the eve of training camp. Formerly a Montreal Canadian the 30 year old winger was quickly given a contract extension, a 4 year deal worth $28 million dollars. The healthiest of the big name acquisitions he managed to skate in 66 games, producing 40 points, 22 goals, and 18 assists.
Last, but absolutely not least to arrive was power forward right winger Mark Stone.
A trade deadline move sent some young pieces to Ottawa but returned sniper Mark Stone. In 18 games for Vegas he only amassed 11 points, on 5 goals and 6 assists. That was on the heals of him racking up 62 points in 59 games for the Senators. Overall his 73 points in 77 games would have led the squad, had he been around all year. And in true Vegas form, McPhee doubled down on his acquisition, handing him an 8 year, $76 million extension.
While the new faces played second fiddle to the OG line of Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith during the regular season, they’ve been front and center through the first 2 games of the opening series with the Sharks. Pacioretty’s pacing of the team with 4 points thus far, is outshone only by Stone’s 3 goals. Not to be outdone, Stastny has chipped in with 3 assists.
So for those of you just tuning in for the playoff run, be aware that there are some names you may not recognize, but as much as last year’s team took hold of the Vegas Born mantra, this year’s team truly represents what Las Vegas is about, a group of talented individuals coming in for the glitz and glamour of Vegas, all in attempt to strike it rich, quick. Based upon the deals and extension inked by the new faces, they’ve certainly gotten rich, now the new Knights just need to deliver their holy grail…..
- Written by Jason Sullivan
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