The Vegas Golden Knights are writing a spectacular first six chapters of their young history. In
six seasons, the VGK has qualified for the Playoffs five times, won the Pacific Division three times and been to the Conference Final four times, and are about to make their second Stanley Cup Final appearance.
Their second Stanley Cup Final in their first six seasons! Only the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado
Avalanche have been to multiple Stanley Cup Finals in that same window. The following is a list of
teams that have been to the Conference Final in four or more of the last six seasons; Tampa Bay
Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights.
The 2022-23 season featured many ups and downs for the VGK. The injury bug hit hard as VGK
was without many key ingredients for large portions of the season. Captain Mark Stone was out since
January 12th and they started five goalies throughout the regular season. VGK’s depth was
stretched for a second consecutive season. However, Coach Bruce Cassidy was able to have enough
pieces throughout the season to win the Pacific Division and achieve the best record in the Western
Through the first three series of the Playoffs, the VGK has yet to face elimination. VGK
eliminated the Winnipeg Jets in five games, Edmonton Oilers in six games, and the Dallas Stars in six
games. Below are my three stars of the Playoffs for the VGK.
Adin Hill. Much has been made about the run that Sergei Bobrovsky is on. Bobrovsky
has an 11-2 record, 2.21 GAA, .935 SV%, and one shutout in this year’s Playoffs. Hill has a 7-3 record, 2.07
GAA, .937 SV%, and two shutouts in this year’s Playoffs. Simply put, Hill has been the best goalie of the
Playoffs. It isn’t just the numbers, there is so much more to like about Hill’s game. Hill has an extremely
calm demeanor which radiates to the rest of the players on the ice. He has used his large 6’4” frame to
remain in position while having the quickness to go east to west across the crease and make some
amazing saves. Hill had one of the most amazing playoff games I’ve ever seen by a losing goalie in game
five of the series against the Stars. Bobrovsky vs. Hill may be what decides who wins the Stanley Cup. In
their post-game pressers, coaches mention many times that their goalie “needed one more save.”
Bobrovsky or Hill, who’s going to make that “one more save” in each game of the series?
Jack Eichel. Eichel has eighteen points in his first seventeen career playoff games.
He is the difference maker that VGK General Manager Kelly McCrimmon needed him to be. It is not just
about Eichel’s offensive output. Eichel has played an extremely responsible role night in and night out
for the VGK. In the Edmonton series, Eichel was on the ice for a total of eleven five-on-five goals. The
goal differential was 10-1 in favor of Eichel. In the Dallas series, when VGK was having trouble making
entries, Eichel was the only VGK able to work the puck across the blue line and able to play the puck into
scoring areas. Eichel will be a difference-maker in the Stanley Cup Final.
William Karlsson. In the Playoffs, Karlsson has had just over two hundred and
eighteen minutes of ice time while logging eight goals, three primary assists, zero penalties taken,
played over 40% of his minutes against the other team’s top scorers, and the goal differential with
Karlsson on the ice is 14-5 in favor of VGK. This reminds me of defenseman Duncan Keith’s Conn
Smythe win in the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals with the Chicago Blackhawks. Keith had three goals, eighteen
assists, and was a plus sixteen. Karlsson currently has ten goals, four assists, and is a plus-eight. If the
VGK wins the Stanley Cup, and Karlsson might be the dark horse to emerge with the Conn Smythe.
Brett Howden, Chandler Stephenson, and Mark Stone. That is a pretty good first line, right?
That just happens to be the third line in Vegas. General Manager Kelly McCrimmon was the architect of
the Stanley Cup runner-up VGK season one team. McCrimmon felt the season one team played at an
“unsustainable” level because many players had career years. However, the team was a Stanley Cup
contender in seasons two through four and made it to consecutive Conference Finals. VGK has been up
against the salary cap, traded away key players for “future considerations,” and has had very few draft
picks to work with. Yet the VGK remained competitive in five of their first six seasons. The
McCrimmoPlan might be the best plan in the NHL
Another piece of the #McCrimmoPlan was acquiring Coach Bruce Cassidy just one week after
the Boston Bruins fired Cassidy. At the hiring press conference, McCrimmon stated, “His success in
Boston, over six years, is extremely impressive. His teams have had a clear identity, having been among
the very best in the NHL in terms of goals for, goals against, goal differential, and special teams. This is
the right coach for our team at this time.” “Identity” is the key word of McCrimmon’s statement. As the
season progressed, the identity of the VGK became clear. A physical team that would be tough to score
on while doing whatever it would take to get pucks into the net. It was a team effort that every player
on the roster bought in too. Egos were left at the door. Cassidy’s VGK team became very tough to
generate odd-man rushes against. There was also a chameleon effect on how VGK approached the
playoffs. VGK has changed to a very aggressive forecheck while still maintaining the ability to limit odd-
man rushes. This is something that caught the Jets, Oilers, and Stars off guard. Cassidy has also made
some subtle lineup changes throughout each series that had positive results.
The Stanley Cup Final starts Saturday, June 3rd, in Vegas. The game one opening ceremony is a
lock to be memorable.