The Vegas Golden Knights have made history once again by winning their first-ever playoff series without losing a game. They completed their first-round sweep of the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night and are the first team to advance in this year’s post-season.
The Edmonton Oilers and Hartford Whalers both made the post-season in the 1979-1980 season, but no NHL expansion team has swept a first-round series.
The Oilers and Whalers, for the record, were transfers from the fiscally-strapped WHA and came into the NHL under somewhat different circumstances when contrasted to this era’s Golden Knights. In the former instance, it was a merger between the NHL and the WHA that led to the 1979 adoption of four clubs under the big tent.
In this instance, the Golden Knights are a more “traditional” expansion team. And their playoff berth is certainly exceptional in the world of sports, so their sweep of the Kings is definitely something.
In fact, prior to their post-season appearance, the Golden Knights were the first of 64 expansion teams in the four major American sports to even post a winning record in their first season.
And thanks to the stellar play of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who recorded his second shutout of the series on Tuesday, and a goal by Brayden McNabb, Vegas will have some time to wait for the second round.
The series was close on paper, with all four games decided by one goal. In the end, however, the Kings couldn’t overcome a miserable home playoff record. Los Angeles managed just three goals in four games and looked every bit like the weighty players of a long-gone era. Something will have to change and something very likely will change soon.
But the Golden Knights, like Internet commenters getting in a flap over misprints, should be moving on with their heads held high. They have every reason to be pleased with their effort against the Kings.
“It feels pretty good, but I have a lot of respect for those guys over there,” McNabb said after the game. “It’s been kind of a whirlwind of a year. A lot of fun and I’m really happy to be here. It feels pretty good to beat them.”
Vegas will suit up against the winner of the Anaheim and San Jose series and are now eight wins away from raising the ultimate prize in sports. When the season began, oddsmakers had them 500 to 1 to win it all.
And now? At the very least, things are looking up.