Author: Patrick Sexton
Few in the hockey world could have predicted the start that the Vegas Golden Knights have experienced to start their inaugural season. At the quarter point of the NHL season, Vegas currently sit in 2nd place in the ultimate competitive Pacific division with a record of 16-9-1. The Golden Knights are only a mere 5 points out of first place in the entire league. With a roster made up of players that were deemed either cast offs or expendable, the Golden Knights have been the feel good story in the first quarter of the NHL season. To make things even more impressive, they have been able to continue to win while having 4 different goalies start games for them and 5 total appearing in an NHL game.
With Vegas being made up of players off of the other 30 NHL teams via the expansion draft, nobody could say with any sort of certainty how they would perform on the ice. However, the one thing that was clear was that they would have excellent goaltending from three-time Stanley Cup Champion Marc-Andre Fleury. The Golden Knights were able to swing a trade with the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins to acquire the veteran goaltender and Fleury instantly became the face of the franchise.
He was far and away the most successful player on the Golden Knights roster, having been selected to 2 NHL All-Star Games and won three Stanley Cups to go along with his 2 silver medals at the World Junior Championships and Olympic gold medal while representing Canada in international play. All was well in the world; Fleury was the backbone of this young team and won 3 of his first 4 starts in a Golden Knight uniform. Cue the madness. Fleury suffered a concussion in a game against the Detroit Red Wings on October 13th and has yet to return to game action. Next in line? Backup Malcolm Subban, a goalie who had never won a game in the National Hockey League.
Having already exceeded expectations by winning 3 of their first 4 games to start the season, it was expected that reality would set in for the Golden Knights and their winning ways would stop. However, a tale as old as time, the unproven rookie stepped up and took advantage of the opportunity. Subban would win his first 2 starts in a Golden Knight uniform before…you guessed it: he got injured. Next in line was Oskar Dansk, a 23-year-old Swedish rookie who had never played a game in the National Hockey League. Dansk came in relief for Subban and went on to win that game as well as his next 2 starts, including a shutout in just his 3rd career NHL game.
You probably know what I’m going to say but I’ll say it anyways. In his 4th career NHL start Dansk went down with an injury…now what? It’s been a next-man-up mentality for the Golden Knights, who now had to turn to 24-year-old rookie Maxime Lagace, who had also never appeared in an NHL game and had spent the past 4 seasons bouncing around between the American Hockey League and East Coast Hockey League.
10 games into the season and the Golden Knights were already having to rely on their 4th string goalie. Lagace’s first NHL appearance came in relief of Dansk, and it did not go very well. Lagace gave up 4 goals on just 11 shots. Lagace has since started 12 games, and sports a 5-6-1 record in that time.
Enough credit cannot be given to Head Coach Gerard Gallant and his staff for continuing to win games while dealing with injury after injury to their goalies. The fact that the Golden Knights have been competitive in their inaugural season is impressive on its own, but the fact that they are winning more often than not is incredible.
Few expected the Golden Knights to be as successful as they have been and the rest of the NHL has absolutely taken notice. Pair that with the fact that they have had to rely on a goaltending carousel and the Golden Knights absolutely seem like a playoff contender.
Getting healthy at the goaltending position and getting the face of the franchise back in Marc-Andre Fleury, and the Golden Knights will definitely be a team to be reckoned with. They are without a doubt the biggest surprise of the NHL season at the quarter way point and I don’t think you could find a single person in the hockey world that would disagree with me when I say that the Golden Knights are a feel-good story.
You can’t help but root for them. After all, who doesn’t love an underdog story?