weather icon Mostly Cloudy

‘X’ marks clinched playoffs for Golden Knights

It began on a Friday in October, inside American Airlines Center, against a Dallas Stars side that at the time many believed would challenge for a Stanley Cup this season, a historic evening that ended in dramatic victory.

James Neal would score the game-winner while sliding from his knees with 2:44 remaining, and the Golden Knights were 2-1 winners and off to prove the hockey world wrong over the next five months.

The final piece of evidence was served Monday night.

It’s in the form of an X.

You will now find one next to Vegas in the league standings, verification the Knights are indeed playoff-bound, a fact stamped with a 4-1 win against Colorado before an announced gathering of 18,326 at T-Mobile Arena.

“From that first game of the season and winning in Dallas, we believed in ourselves and the team and the guys playing next to each other,” Neal said. “When you do that, good things can happen.

“Everyone had a second chance here, and the way our coaching staff is — their ability to let you play and not hound you after mistakes so you grip the stick too tight — I think everyone has been able to play looser and to their strengths. It’s a good thing.”

None of them point to one specific game, one precise stretch of results, one particular week or month or period of the season that caused them to think things could be far more special than most outside their locker room imagined.

They just always believed it.

It’s true the Knights benefited from expansion draft rules that allowed them to select much better players than past first-year clubs, and yet it’s also true George McPhee as general manager didn’t in every instance take the best available names from certain teams. So the draft helped, and yet not as much as most assume.

More than anything, head coach Gerard Gallant challenged each player to have the best season of his career, to produce at a level he hadn’t yet reached.

Some, like center William Karlsson, have gone (way) above and beyond.

“I’m not sure anyone knew he was this good,” said Neal of his 40-goal-scoring teammate.

The first hint about what might occur this season came when Vegas went 8-2 over its first 10 games, and by the time mid-January arrived and the Knights were 18-3-1 at home, folks realized this was about more than a supposed flu bug taking down all those visiting players hitting the casinos.

You have been watching the greatest expansion team in sports history, and that includes the Blues team that actually made the Cup final its first year, because back in 1967-68, all of the NHL’s six new clubs were put in the same division and the winner advanced to the championship.

Yep. Things are a lot tougher now.

“Even before the season, there was no reason why we wouldn’t be competitive,” Neal said. “We have great goaltenders, solid, tough defenders and solid forwards throughout the lineup. I said from Day One, there was no reason we shouldn’t make the playoffs. I don’t think anyone thought we’d be as good as we have been, but everyone came in with an open mind to do good things.”

They didn’t blink when Marc-Andre Fleury was lost for 25 games with a concussion, the goalie and face of the franchise suddenly taken from his protective butterfly. They have had others step forward when injuries hit different parts of the lineup. They never really changed all that much, no matter which names or lines were on the ice.

They just played, a mantra preached over and over by the man who won his 200th game as a head coach Monday.

“We don’t look at the game behind us,” Gallant said. “We always look at the one coming forward. From the first day, it wasn’t about the playoffs. We never talked about that. Just get to the next game and the next two points and talk about that. Obviously, with the start we had, it was great out of the gate. Nobody expected this, but I think people said this was a good hockey team. We weren’t winning lucky.

“For an expansion team to make the playoffs, it’s really tough, and I didn’t expect to. But it was never about the playoffs.”

It is now.

“The X is there,” Gallant said.

As amazing as it is historic.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.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.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Golden Knights Videos
Golden Knight's owner Bill Foley's House for sale in The Ridges - Real Estate Millions
Vegas Golden Knights, Fleury Make Day for Critically Ill Teenager in ESPN “My Wish” - Video
A 13-year-old Las Vegas boy who has faced Hodgkin’s lymphoma is treated to a special day by the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights in a new ESPN “My Wish” Series feature debuting Wednesday, July 17, on SportsCenter. In the feature, Doron Coldwell spends a day with the team and even gets an opportunity to replace his favorite player, three-time Stanley Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury, in the net.
Golden Knights Sell "Battle Worn Armor" To Season Ticket Holders - Video
The Golden Knights sell their "battle worn" apparel throughout both of the teams seasons including pucks, sticks, helmets and skates.
Summerlin 4th of July Parade - VIDEO
On July 4th Summerlin will be hosting the 25th annual Summerlin Council Patriotic Parade, an event that has grown massively over the years
Golden Knights McPhee talks on the first day of NHL free agency - VIDEO
Golden Knights incoming president of operations George McPhee addresses the media as free agency starts.
Golden Knights Trade Colin Miller as Development Camp ends - VIDEO
George McPhee speaks to the media following the end of the Golden Knights development camp.
Golden Knights Development Camp Day 4 - VIDEO
Nic Hague stands out at day 4 of Golden Knights development camp.
Golden Knights Hold First Scrimmage of Development Camp - Video
The first of three scrimmages was held at the 2019 Golden Knights Development Camp. Golden Edge host Cassie Soto and Golden Knights beat writers Adam Hill and David Schoen discuss what stood out to them.
Golden Knights George McPhee Discusses Erik Haula Trade - Video
A day after it was announced that Erik Haula had been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, incoming President of Hockey Operations George McPhee spoke to the media discussing the move.
Golden Knights Trade Erik Haula - Video
The Golden Knights have traded Erik Haula to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for prospect Nicolas Roy. Golden Edge host Cassie Soto and Golden Knights beat writer Adam Hill discuss the trade.
Golden Knights Coaches Looking for Veterans to Step Up in Development Camp - Video
Day two of the 2019 Golden Knights Development Camp is in the books. Director of Player Development Wil Nichol says his staff is looking for the veterans of the camp to step up and be leaders to the younger guys, while at the same time doing their best to impress the coaching staff.
Golden Knights Draft Player with Strong Hockey Bloodlines - Video
The Golden Knights drafted Mason Primeau in the 5th round of the 2019 NHL Draft. Primeau is no stranger to professional hockey, both his dad (Wayne Primeau) and his uncle (Keith Primeau) played in the NHL.
Golden Knights Kelly McCrimmon Talks Development Camp - VIDEO
Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon talks about what he expects from everyone at development camp on their first day.
Golden Knights Dylan Coghlan On Veteran Experience - VIDEO
Golden Knights defenseman Dylan Coghlan talks about his veteran experience playing in Chicago and development camp.
Golden Knights President George McPhee talks about Williams Karlsson's 8 year deal
George McPhee presser highlights June 25, 2019.
Golden Knights Center William Karlsson speaks to media about 8 year contract
William Karlsson presser highlights June 25, 2019.
Golden Knights Development Camp at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada
For the third consecutive year, Vegas Golden Knights Development Camp participants participated in a special community event at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
2019 NHL Awards Highlight Video
The 2019 NHL Awards took place at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Wednesday night. Though Vegas Golden Knights forward Mark Stone came close to winning the best defensive forward trophy, St. Louis Blues center Ryan O' Reilly took home the coveted Frank Selke Trophy. Jason Zucker, who was raised in Las Vegas and plays for the Minnesota Wild, accepted the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership and humanitarianism. Tampa Bay Lightning's Nikita Kucherov took home the NHL's MVP Award. (Heidi Fang / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gary Bettman discusses NHL rule changes - VIDEO
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the media after Wednesday’s Board of Governor’s meeting.
Golden Knights' Mark Stone up for Selke Trophy
Golden Knights right wing Mark Stone is a finalist for the Selke Trophy. The award goes to the best defensive forward in the NHL. Stone led the league in takeaways last season with 122. His competition is St. Louis Blues center Ryan O'Reilly... And Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron. Stone will find out if he wins Wednesday at the NHL Awards.
Vegas Golden Knights announce preseason schedule
The Golden Knights announced their preseason schedule Tuesday, as well as the date of their rookie camp and training camp.
Mark Stone and Stanley Cup visit MGM Grand
Mark Stone took photos and signed autographs for Golden Knights fans at the MGM Grand on Sunday. The Stanley Cup also made its way into the MGM Grand Main Lobby. The most revered trophy in hockey is on display to celebrate the upcoming 2019 NHL awards at the Mandalay Bay Center on June 19th. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights, Raiders Unite for Charity Softball Game - Video Highlights
Golden Knights and Raiders players alike were more than excited to join together in a charity softball game to raise money for pediatric cancer. Players from both teams cannot wait for the Raiders to arrive in Las Vegas so more joint events can take place.
Golden Knights and Raiders Raise over $100K in Charity Softball Game - Video Highlights
In the first-ever Battle For Vegas Charity Softball Game, the Golden Knights and Raiders raised $136,000 for the Tyler Robinson Foundation. At the end of the nights, it was the Raiders that raised the Battle For Vegas trophy, after beating the Golden Knights 20-16. Take a look at some of the highlights from the game!
Golden Knights' Reilly Smith Ready to Battle for Vegas - Video
Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith is ready to Battle For Vegas in a charity softball game that will feature various celebrity athletes, including teammates Jonathan Marchessault, Ryan Reaves and Erik Haula. Smith's team will face off against former Raider Marcus Allen and his teammates, including Vontaze Burfict, Josh Jacobs and Maurice Hurst. The charity softball game is set to take place on Saturday, June 15th at the Las Vegas Ballpark.
Golden Knights Will Have a New Home in Henderson - Video
The Golden Knights are saying goodbye to the Henderson Convention Center and hello to the team's new hockey facility that will be located in the second largest city in Nevada. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights and Henderson make deal on new facility - VIDEO
Henderson City Council unanimously approved a lease agreement with the Vegas Golden Knights to build and operate an indoor ice hockey facility in downtown Henderson, Tuesday evening. ( Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Kelly McCrimmon Gets Promoted to Golden Knight General Manager - Video
The Vegas Golden Knights have announced that Kelly McCrimmon has been promoted to General Manager of the team, effective September 1, 2019. Regarding his new role, McCrimmon will represent the Golden Knights at the NHL's General Managers Meetings and will be the point of contact for other league GMs.
Golden Knights Say an "Awful Call" Cost Them the Series - Video
Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant and Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault believe that an "awful call" by the officials cost them game 7.
Golden Knights Fans Watch Game 7 at T-Mobile - VIDEO
Golden Knights went through a roller coaster in game 7 which lead to the Knights loss 5-4 in overtime.
Sharks & Golden Knights fans fired up for Game 7
Ahead of Game 7 in San Jose, Sharks and Golden Knights fans get hyped for the game in the fan zone at SAP Center.
UNLV’s Tony Sanchez embraces new Fertitta Football Complex

Already, the new UNLV football complex has paid off with several commitments for the 2020 recruiting class, pledges from the sorts of players who likely would have never considered the Rebels if not for such dedication to an on-campus facility.