The Vegas Golden Knights are proving that the surprising is becoming routine. The expansion team swept the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the NHL playoffs on Tuesday, and are the first team to advance to the second round.
They became the third team ever in the NHL, NBA, or Major League Baseball to win the opening round of their first playoff series without surrendering a loss, according to ESPN Stats. The Pittsburgh Penguins swept the Oakland Seals in 1970 and the Boston Braves did the same in baseball against the Oakland Athletics in 1914.
With the victory, the Golden Knights jumped up to the top of the board to win the Western Conference and the Stanley Cup. They are now 7/4 to win the conference finals and 7/2 to win the championship, according to sportsbook.ag. The Nashville Predators, who were in the finals last year, are second at 17/4.
When the season began the Golden Knights were a 300/1 choice to win the Stanley Cup.
Historic First Round
Not only did Vegas win its series, the team dominated the two-time Stanley Cup champions. They did not have a single 1-0 shutout during the regular season, but had two in four games against Los Angeles. The Kings managed just three goals in four games and led only once during the entire series.
“Obviously, you can’t win a series scoring three goals total,” Kings center Anze Kopitar said. “We have to give [Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury] credit. I thought he was playing really well. We also had some chances that we didn’t score on, so you know, we just didn’t score enough goals.”
It was a humbling statement, much different than what Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said after a December loss to Vegas in the regular season.
“There’s no way they’re going to be a better team than us by the end of the season,” Doughty said at the time.
Few Doubters Remain
While Doughty and his teammates look into golf tee times, the team that eliminated them gets some rest as they await the winner of the San Jose-Anaheim series. The Sharks are up 3-0 and can close out the Ducks Wednesday night at home. They are anywhere from a -170 to -180 favorite to complete a sweep of their own.
Whichever team Vegas faces, the Golden Knights should be favored, as they were 3-1 against both Anaheim and San Jose in the regular season.
It shouldn’t be a major surprise the Golden Knights are doing so well. They dominated the year and set several records for a first-year team along the way. Sportsbooks had set an over/under on victories at 26.5, a bar the team passed in January. The points total over/under of 68 was shattered shortly thereafter.
The Golden Knights broke the record for wins by an expansion team and watched their odds slowly drop to where they were the favorite at one point. They now have regained that status and don’t expect a let down.
“I think people have been waiting for us to lose since Game 1, and it hasn’t happened yet,” Vegas center Cody Eakin said. “We don’t plan on slowing down.”