What a difference a year makes.
It's been a Cinderella story for the Vegas Golden Knights, except even more grand.
"Some of his best performances are stuff that none of us get to see, and really happens inside the dressing room, on the plane, and sitting beside the players - just the experience he has", Cheveldayoff said. They now have a glorious opportunity to become the first team in National Hockey League history to win three playoff series in their inaugural season, they are already only the third first year team to win two rounds. Vegas ended up with 109 points in what's been called a fairytale campaign for an expansion team. In my mind, they are the best expansion team in the history of major sports, not just hockey.
The series also pits two hot goaltenders against each other in Jets Connor Hellebuyck and veteran Marc-Andre Fleury, who's been in 125 playoffs games compared to Hellebuyck's 12.
Fleury has had a tremendous postseason, registering four shutouts, a.951 save percentage and 1.53 goals-against average - all career bests. Historic, fast, and motivated, the Knights are looking as though they have a chance to win the Stanley Cup in their inaugural National Hockey League season.
Winnipeg impressively knocked out Nashville on the road in Game 7 and now has a quick turnaround to host this game.
In the final period "Winnipeg" calmly finished off a home - Stastny scored twice in the majority, and Cheifly his second goal in the match scored in the counterattack, when the gate "Nashville" was already empty.
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David Krejci scored in the final minute of the first period to give Boston a 1-0 lead that Point erased with his unassisted goal at 10:43 of the second. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck has had his moments when he has struggled in the playoffs, but manages to be there when his team needs him most. The Jets can match the Vegas speed through most lines and with at least three of them they can match pressure but compared to the cult that is Vegas they aren't quite as dedicated. Karlsson has 10 points in 10 games, while Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault both have 11 points in 10 games.
The Jets are one of the fastest starting teams in the National Hockey League with a plus-25 goal differential in the first period. Who would have ever thought the expansion Golden Knights would be in this position, and still be the talk of the hockey world in May?
The Jets don't have much of a breather after knocking off the Presidents' Trophy-winning Nashville Predators in round 2 on Thursday night. That it took the Isles only three seasons to reach the playoffs, when they sent shivers through defending Cup champ Philadelphia by coming back from a 3-0 series deficit to force a seventh game in the semis, was in of itself a tremendous achievement.
The Golden Knights may have the advantage of rested legs, but they also will catch a unsafe Jets team that could still be fueled by momentum from Thursday's win.
While some may begrudge the two day turn around start date for the series it might be better for Winnipeg to get back "at it" rather than rest and wait as Vegas has had the luxury of doing. First they had to wait for Wayne Gretzky's greatness to run its course, so often was he the foil to the ambitions of Jets 1.0. Everything will stop when they play Game 1 on Saturday night and not just because a huge portion of the population adores its Jets. Winnipeg is 6-1 in its last seven Saturday games. Vegas is down to starting its fourth string goalie and they still win.
Winnipeg is 4-2 on the road in the playoffs after splitting a pair in Minnesota in its opening-round series against the Wild.