This is the last chapter of the season for the Cinderella-story Vegas Golden Knights as the first year NHL expansion team will be going toe to toe with the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Finals starting Monday, May 28th. The Golden Knights were longshots to even reach the playoffs before the season faced off and were as high as 500/1 underdogs to win the cup. However, they’re now just four wins away from becoming the first team in league history to win Lord Stanley’s silverware in their inaugural season. Of course, they’re also four losses way from finishing as runners up as well.
But even losing in the finals is somewhat an historical accomplishment for the club since just two previous expansion franchises have gotten that far in their first season. They’re also the first major professional sports team in North America to reach the finals in their first year of operation. The last team to do it was the 1967/68 St. Louis Blues. The Blues had a bit of an advantage though since the NHL had expanded to 12 clubs from six that season and one of the six expansion teams was guaranteed to reach the finals.
In comparison to fellow NHL teams and other sports, the Florida Panthers reached the Stanley Cup finals during their third season in 1995/96. The Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA title in 1971, three years after joining the league and the Arizona Diamondbacks of MLB captured the World Series in 2001 during their fourth season. On the other hand the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the richest teams in the NHL, haven’t reached the Stanley Cup finals since the 1966/67 campaign when they last hoisted the trophy. Vegas swept the Los Angeles Kings in four games then downed the San Jose Sharks in six and the Winnipeg Jets in five to reach this year’s final series.
The Golden Knights will be taking on a club which has never won a Stanley Cup either and will be making their first appearance in the finals since 1997/98. The Capitals downed the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins in six games each in the first two rounds and just defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven in the Eastern Conference Final. The Caps won the first two against Tampa, then lost three in a row before winning the final two games by shutouts. The Capitals also won three of four games in Tampa and scored the final nine goals of the series.
Vegas won the Pacific Division and finished the 2017/18 campaign with 109 points for the fifth-best record in the NHL. Meanwhile, Washington reached 105 points, won the Metropolitan Division and were tied for sixth-best with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The two teams met just twice during the regular season with Vegas winning 3-0 at home on December 23rd and 4-3 in Washington on February 4th. Heading into the finals, Vegas will have the home ice advantage. They’ll be facing a Washington team which has scored 3.47 goals per game in the playoffs to rank second and has allowed 2.47 goals against to rank tied for third. Vegas has the second-best goals-against average at 1.80 and have scored 2.87 goals per contest to rank ninth.