Golden Knights enter bye week as Western Conference leaders
by Rex Factor Scores & Statson
Expansion is no longer even a factor as Vegas bolts to lead at season halfway mark
A lot of things have worked out perfectly for the Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season of NHL play.
After a close and hard-fought 2-1 triumph over the New York Rangers on Sunday night at T-Mobile Arena on the Strip, the Knights had closed out the first half of their season with 29 wins in 41 games.
It only figured, then, to work out perfectly that the bye week that all teams enjoy at some point during the season comes exactly halfway in the middle of this historic and unbelievable, unforgettable season for the Knights.
Vegas has treated their arena like a fortress, and Sunday’s sell-out was in front of a season-high 18,234 fans and was like many other games since the season started in October – a close and impressive victory in which there have been few defeats.
"Vegas extended its home winning streak to seven games as James Neal contributed his 18th goal and Marc-Andre Fleury (9-2-1) posted 28 saves. Mika Zibanejad posted his 13th goal of the year for the Rangers"
Longtime sportscaster Brent Musburger recalled last week when Vegas was playing in Chicago on the second of a back-to-back following a loss to St. Louis the night before. VGK bolted to a 2-goal lead, blew it, fell behind and yet rallied to win 5-4 at the United Center to the perennial Stanley Cup contenders.
“I was listening to the Blackhawks broadcast when they were in Chicago the other night and the two broadcasters were raving about the Knights, saying this is not only one of the best stories in the National Hockey League but is one of the best stories in all of sports,” Musburger said on his Vegas Stats & Information Network’s “Follow The Money” show Monday morning.
“They raved about how the kids play for the Knights. They never stop hustling, they dig into the corner, they have a lot of third and fourth-line players that came here in the expansion draft and play with a chip on their shoulder. It was interesting listening to out-of-town announcers talk that way about them.”
The Knights are going to shatter every record ever set for a modern-era expansion team in any of the four major sports. That’s why I won’t bother calling them one anymore. Anyone following the team knows by now that this is no longer a feel-good story – the team is simply too good to stick with the original plan of dumping a lot of the expiring contracts at the trade deadline. Most secondary statistics in hockey suggest that this team is built to win right now, and the lines are finally reflecting it after Las Vegas sportsbooks took a bath through almost all of the last two months with VGK money.
The situation will create major headaches in the front office but one decision has already been made: Standout forward Jonathan Marchessault signed a six-year, $30 million extension last week. Management’s six-year plan to win the Stanley Cup has been scrapped – that move suggests it’s time to shove some chips in the pot.
The momentum built up to this point will halt with the bye; the mandatory rest days will keep VGK players out of their Summerlin facility until Friday. But then Edmonton comes to town Saturday and the Knights have a chance to avenge their ONLY division loss in the first half – an 8-2 mauling back in Canada back on Nov. 14. It was also the worst loss of the season for the Knights, yet they’ll be favored at home Saturday as the Oilers have just 39 points and sit sixth in the Pacific division.
After the rest, rest assured, they’ll be ready. They have been all season, right since the opening night win in Dallas.