The improbable Golden Knights: One win from a Stanley Cup Final
The Golden Knights held off Winnipeg 3-2 in Game 4 of a best-of-seven Western Conference Final and are now one victory away from playing in the Stanley Cup Final.
I’m not a big fate guy when it comes to sports. Save the supernatural power nonsense for movies and books and television shows about vampires.
But the idea of controlling one’s destiny — you always have the opportunity to turn one way or the other — is at times a more reasonable basis for why the unthinkable occurs.
Hence, the Vegas Golden Knights.
The season no one predicted (at least sober), the NHL expansion team nobody thought would still be playing anywhere near this deep into May, or in May at all, the 500-1 longshot back in October, the story of a town and a franchise connected through the tragedy of a mass shooting and then blended into an alliance of loyalty and endearment, has come to this:
Vegas is one win from reaching a Stanley Cup Final.
Welcome to Impossible?
More like Meet Your Reality.
The Knights on Friday evening held off Winnipeg 3-2 in Game 4 of a best-of-seven Western Conference Final before an announced record gathering of 18,697 at T-Mobile Arena, earning Vegas a 3-1 lead in the series and this truth:
Should it win Game 5 on Sunday in Winnipeg, Vegas will advance to the final against the winner of Washington and Tampa out of the Eastern Conference.
That’s the second most amazing thing about this past month.
This is the first: Forget the Shroud of Turin and Lady of Guadalupe and St. Joseph of Cupertino and all others, because the idea that Vegas is this close to playing for the Cup produced perhaps a more astonishing miracle.
It rendered Nate Schmidt speechless.
The defenseman stared at those asking questions about being one win away, about how it felt to know such a truth exists, smiled and perhaps for the first time since arriving in Las Vegas as an expansion draft pick from the Capitals, paused before answering.
It was like Seinfeld stopping short of a punch line, LeBron James ceasing in mid-flight, the guy in a Knight suit forgetting to destroy a pregame opponent (or at least its Jet) down on the ice.
“We still have a game to play and it’s the hardest one to get,” Schmidt said. “l can’t imagine it being any easier or tougher than anything else in this series. It’s going to be a tough battle. We’re going to enjoy this win for five minutes and then get ready to go to Winnipeg.”
That’s him being speechless.
It make sense, and it’s the sort of approach his teammates would take over the next several minutes, talking about remaining in the moment and not looking past Sunday and that history insists the toughest game to win is that which would clinch any series.
More than anything, how Winnipeg responds mentally could dictate how long this goes — Game 6 would be in Las Vegas on Tuesday and Game 7 back in Winnipeg on Thursday.
How the Jets appear those first 10 minutes Sunday — fast as lightning and refusing to crumble or having already made summer plans in their minds — should as much as anything determine whether the Knights end this in five.
“I know we can win a game,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice. “We’re a good enough team. We’ve battled. We’ve gone into some pretty heavy environments and won a game that we needed to win. So it’s just one game.”
The NHL has granted an expansion franchise to Las Vegas. The team will begin play in 2017-18. pic.twitter.com/8R0WsLDXVi
— NHL (@NHL) June 22, 2016
It was June of 2016 when the NHL granted Las Vegas its franchise, and Twitter immediately responded to the news.
Some of the first replies:
What a joke.
Nobody plays hockey in this city. They should continue to play volleyball.
I’ll give them 3 years tops, before they go and “re-locate.”
I’m calling a 14-63-5 inaugural season.
None of it aged well, and yet who really expected anything different from such sentiments?
“We’re one win away, of course, but we have to keep battling,” said forward James Neal, who can return to the final for a second straight year after advancing there with Nashville last season. “We can’t take our foot off the gas now. We have to continue to grow and get better, and we’ll do that.”
Fate is for movies and books and television shows.
Destiny is sometimes different. You can often control it.
Vegas owns that chance Sunday. It does three more times, really.
Welcome to the Doorstep of Incredible.
More Golden Knights: Follow all of our Golden Knights coverage online at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.