Not many eyes were on the Vegas Golden Knights in their opening round matchup over the Winnipeg Jets – it drew the lowest average viewership out of every other series matchup – and their gentleman’s sweep to become the first N.H.L. team to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
And if you were in the same boat as those who hadn’t watched the Golden Knights dismantle the Jets, be warned now: this team is a legitimate force and could easily represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final.
The series didn’t start off kindly to Vegas. The Jets embarrassed the Golden Knights in sin city with a 5-1 stunner, netting three goals in the third period when it looked like Vegas had a chance of making a comeback when heading into the locker room for the second intermission down 2-1.
From that game on, Winnipeg would not be seeing much fall in their favor. For the rest of the series, the Jets were outscored 18-to-9, and 8-3 in the final two games. And in game three, star defenseman Josh Morrissey suffered a lower-body injury and would be ruled out for the remainder of the series. Losing their top d-man would prove to be a devastating blow to Winnipeg.
Vegas’s thumping of Winnipeg has been thanks to its expected production from its star players and help from depth, as well as a solid forechecking presence and goaltending from Laurent Brossoit. Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone – who returned from injury for the postseason – have both totaled eight points each, respectively. Jack Eichel, who had a rocky game one, has put five with three goals alongside William Karlsson and Alex Pietrangelo. And on top of this, Brossoit has been stellar with a .915 save percentage and an average of 2.42 goals per game.
While that GPG number may be a bit high for the playoffs, the offensive firepower the Golden Knights bring – they’re averaging 3.8 GPG – is well enough to cover it.
This team isn’t invincible, however. The Golden Knights are still struggling to produce on the man advantage and defend the penalty kill, as Vegas finished 3-of-16 (18.8%) on the power play while giving up five goals on 12 opportunities (41.7%). Vegas must tighten up its special teams in order to be a fully-rounded threat.
Vegas will now be more rested than anyone else heading into round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Golden Knights will face the winner of the Los Angeles Kings/Edmonton Oilers series.