The Los Angeles Kings had their struggles last season. This resulted in the club narrowly missing the 2017 playoffs. However, the idea that the Kings would have a more difficult time clinching a playoff spot than the Vegas Golden Knights, would likely not have been on many peoples minds seven months ago. This is the world we live in. The Colorado Avalanche are in the playoffs and the Chicago Blackhawks are on the golf course, anything is possible. What will a Vegas vs Kings matchup look like?
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Los Angeles Kings
How Much Do We Value Experience?
Vegas has been championed as a team of equals. Lending to this idea is that fact that the Golden Knights have yet to name a team captain. They are currently running with six alternate captains, a decision which was made back in October. There has been no reason to shake up the leadership dynamic. The team maintained course all season, clinching the top spot in the Pacific Division.
The Kings have an established leadership core featuring Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and company. Beyond that Los Angeles has something else the Golden Knights simply can’t have, and that’s recent playoff experience. The Kings still have a large number of key players on their roster, who were a part of their 2014 Stanley Cup win. The Kings know what it is like to go the distance. It can be argued that the Golden Knights may want it more, and have more to prove.
Do The Knights have another Notch?
At this point it’s virtually undeniable, the Vegas Golden Knights have had the most impressive expansion season in major sports history. This is impressive, and it can be talked and typed about to no end. The question now is: will their first year be looked back upon any differently if they’re swept in the first round of the playoffs?
The Golden Knights have proven over and over that they are not to be underestimated. Additionally, any player, coach, broadcaster or fan would agree that the difficulty of the Stanley Cup Playoffs should not be underestimated. The playoffs are regarded as a marathon. Even though it is the first leg, do the Vegas Golden Knights have what it takes to beat the Kings at this checkpoint?
Since the Golden Knights are a team of equals, a team which has as much reliance on its fourth line as it does on it’s first, do they have the ability to turn up their game to playoff level? Of course, the idea of playoff hockey being more challenging than regular season hockey can be discounted as arbitrary to some extent. It’s still the same teams and the same rules. Have the Golden Knights been leaving it all out on the ice every night, with no room for improvement? Or will this narrative serve as just another expectation to subvert?
The Flower holds the Power
The Pittsburgh Penguins have their up-and-coming superstar goaltender in Matt Murray. This is why they felt comfortable handing over Marc-Andre Fleury to Vegas in the expansion draft. As good as Murray has been at times this year for his team, Fleury has been just as good or better for Vegas.
Fleury has played 46 games this season. This is eight more than he played last season. He’s also earned 11 more wins for his new team this season with 29. Overall, his stats have improved with the Golden Knights. His save percentage is up from .909 last season, to .927 this year. His goals against average also took a respectable dip from 3.02 last year, to 2.24 this season. It is possible to debate the Golden Knights firepower and their lack of superstars, but the numbers don’t lie, it’s hard to debate their quality goaltender.
Kings starter Jonathan Quick only played 17 games for his club last season due to injury. However, this year Quick played a 64 game season for the Kings. He put up numbers comparable to Fleury with a .921 save percentage and a 2.40 goals against average. Quick only managed to walk away with 33 victories out of 64 games. With stats that don’t quite reach Fleury’s level, the Golden Knights have a sizeable advantage in this corner.
History in the Making.
When a team is on a winning streak, they want nothing more than to continue it, break records and keep the good times rolling. Other times though, what do they want? They want to be the team to break the streak. They want to be the team that goes down as the one that put an end to it.
Just like a winning streak, the Vegas Golden Knights are on a streak of victory, the likes of which sports has never seen. That has to serve as a pretty good motivator for the Los Angeles Kings. They could be the team to put an end to the Golden Knights historic inaugural year.
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