An expansion team reaching the championship round begs the question: How did it get here?
The Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final after blazing through the Western Conference with a 12-3 playoff record and three relatively stress-free series wins. Here’s a look back at each:
Knights 4, Kings 0
Vegas swept its first playoff series despite winning each game by a single goal. The sweep came on the back of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who set an early tone for his impressive postseason by recording a .977 save percentage and a 0.65 goals-against average.
The Kings’ most notable player was defenseman Drew Doughty, but for the wrong reasons. Doughty was suspended for Game 2 of the series after an illegal check to the head against Knights forward Will Carrier and received flack for his December claim that Los Angeles would be a better team by the end of the season.
Knights 4, Sharks 2
The Knights showed little rust after a long layoff between series, dominating the opener 7-0. A 4-3 double-overtime defeat in Game 2 has been their only playoff loss at T-Mobile Arena.
With the series tied 2-2, the Knights proved to be a more resilient squad and won the final two games by a combined score of 8-3. The team’s top line of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith were the biggest Shark-killers, combining for 25 points in the series.
San Jose star defenseman Brent Burns was a team-worst -6 in the series.
Western Conference Final
Golden Knights 4, Jets 1
The Knights faced their first playoff deficit after a 4-2 loss in Game 1, but grounded the Jets afterward. Despite not having home-ice advantage for the first time in the postseason, the Knights won twice in Winnipeg and won both games at T-Mobile Arena.
The Jets, who averaged 3.38 goals per game in the regular season and 3.58 per game in the playoffs, scored just 10 times against the Golden Knights. Winnipeg, which had a season-long three-game losing streak and didn’t lose back-to-back games in the first two rounds, lost four straight to close the series.
Marchessault built on his great playoff run by scoring seven points, and forward Ryan Reaves became an unlikely hero when he scored the series-clinching goal in Game 5.