Knight fever:

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - Charles Cur­tis

Here are rea­sons to root for up­start Las Ve­gas in the NHL play­offs.

Search­ing for a band­wagon to jump on in the NHL play­offs?

How about the Ve­gas Golden Knights, the team that went up 3-0 in their first-round matchup against the Los An­ge­les Kings? There is so much to root for here, and you won’t want to miss out on all the fun.

Let’s break it down:

1. They have the chance to be an all-time in­cred­i­ble sports story: Ex­pan­sion teams in their first year of full op­er­a­tions aren’t sup­posed to make the play­offs. They’re usu­ally in tank mode, build­ing up young as­sets while get­ting vet­er­ans left un­pro­tected in the ex­pan­sion draft to do their best to build a fan base.

The Golden Knights didn’t just reach the post­sea­son in

Year 1. They nearly won the Pres­i­dents’ Tro­phy for the team with the best record dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son. They won the Pa­cific Divi­sion with a 51-24-7 record. And they’re a real threat to run through the West­ern Con­fer­ence en route to the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nals. 2. The “Ve­gas Flu” might

be a thing: That’s the nick­name for the con­di­tion that could ex­plain how the Knights won 29 of their 41 home games. The the­ory: Op­pos­ing teams come to Las Ve­gas, stay up late, gam­ble and what­not and come to the arena the next day a lit­tle slower than usual.

It re­ally could be that the team is a deep squad filled with savvy vets, hun­gry young­sters and a goal­tender who knows what it takes to win a Cup. But op­po­nents hav­ing the temp­ta­tions of The Strip could help just enough to give the Knights an edge on some evenings. That said, the Golden Knights were great on the road, too. 3. They’re so Ve­gas: The team em­braces the over-thetop na­ture of Ve­gas. The pregame rit­ual fea­tures knights bat­tling it out. Their mas­cot is a Gila mon­ster named Chance. 4. They’re good at hockey: There’s tal­ent up and down the ros­ter, with scor­ing that can come from any one of the four lines.

They have shot-block­ers like Bray­den McNabb (sixth in the NHL at putting his body in front of pucks) and Deryk En­gel­land.

Wil­liam Karls­son had 43 goals this sea­son af­ter to­tal­ing 18 in his first four sea­sons. Goal­tender Marc-An­dre Fleury turned back the clock this year.

This isn’t a fluke. The Golden Knights are le­git­i­mately good.

‘Dr. Smooth’ Michael Brant­ley KEN BLAZE/USA TO­DAY SPORTS


Goal­tender Marc-An­dre Fleury, who helped lead the Pen­guins to three Stan­ley Cups, has the Golden Knights up 3-0 against the Kings.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.