The reigning Western Conference champions will get the chance to defend their crown. The Vegas Golden Knights are going to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight season.
As a result of the Colorado Avalanche recording a 3-2 shootout victory against the Arizona Coyotes, Vegas is going back to the Field of 16 one year after pulling off the greatest feat in sports history.
Not that it should come as a shock, but the Golden Knights become the first team from the expansion era to make the playoffs in their first two years of existence, and the seventh team ever in NHL history to do such a thing.
The Golden Knights were the sports darlings of the world in 2017-18 when they rode an improbable wave of earning 109 points, winning the Pacific Division and steamrolling through the Western Conference to reach the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season. Of course, the dream would be derailed by Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in five games.
The road to get back to the playoffs was not an easy one to start for Vegas. Top defenseman Nate Schmidt was suspended the first 20 games of the season for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy, and the Golden Knights stumbled to an 8-11-1 start.
Vegas won 21 of their next 30 games upon Schmidt’s return and rolled into Jan. 19 with a 29-17-4 record. Panic mode crept over the next month with the Golden Knights losing 10 of their next 13 (3-9-1). They had 69 points on Feb. 25; 16 points back of the Calgary Flames for first place and only six ahead of the surging Arizona Coyotes for their third-place spot.
That same day, Vegas acquired Mark Stone in a trade deadline deal with the Ottawa Senators and the rest is history. Vegas has won 10 of its past 14 since acquiring Stone and have moved within five points of San Jose for second place in the Pacific.
At the time of the deadline, the Golden Knights were not looking like a potential threat in the Western Conference. One-and-done seemed like the logical approach. Now, in awide-open West, it’s fair game.
Vegas retooled, revamped and re-energized itself in the span of a month. Now, they’re going back to the playoffs. This time, they have to be the clear-cut favorite to get out of the West.