Let’s not kid ourselves here, NOBODY and I mean NOBODY had the Knights going this far this season. Hell, I bet nobody had the Jets steamrolling this season either. Yet here we are. Two unlikely teams at the beginning of the season facing off for a chance to become legendary.
The Knights made quick work of the Kings in large part of Marc Andre Fleury posting insane numbers. Then in a series against the Sharks, where everyone for sure thought it would be the end of the Knights run, Wild Bill and Marchessault would have none of it. The Knights battled through and cleaned up the series on the road in 6.
The Jets had a similar path to the conference finals. They seemingly walked through the Wild in 5 games. A series that only saw the Wild score 5 goals all series and get shut out in games 4 and 5. The Jets next step wouldn’t be so easy as they would face off against the favored Nashville Predators. This series had it all and gave hockey fans exactly what they wanted. Beautiful goals, big hits, incredible saves and overtime thrills in game 2. In the end, though the Preds couldn’t keep up with the Jets scoring and Vezina candidate Pekka Rinne finally faltered at home in game 7. Giving up 2 softies in what would be the beginning of the end for Nashville.
Let’s see how they stack up against each other.
Vegas Golden Knights vs Winnipeg Jets
Advantage – Jets.. and it’s not close.
The Kings offered up Kopitar for the Knights to battle and the Sharks were more formidable with Pavelski, Couture. Yet the Knights have yet to face the stacked Jets this playoffs. They are going to have to find a way to contain Scheifele, Wheeler then Laine and Ehlers and Stastny next. Not to mention the depth scoring from Connor and Tanev. Sure the Knights have Wild Bill, Marchessault, Smith running a dangerous top line but after that, it just doesn’t match up. Neal, Haula, and Perron although good players just don’t have the offensive pop the Jets do. Scheifele had 7 goals against the Preds. Yes, you read that right. Really feels like if you shut down the Knights top line its safe to say you can win. The Jets scored 27 goals in 7 games against one of the best if not the best defensive cores in the NHL. The Knights have scored 29 goals in the first two rounds combined.
Advantage – Jets
It’s not like the Jets have an all-star top 4 that the Knights have to deal with but they do have Big Buff to worry about. Nate Schmidt has been good and so has McNabb but they aren’t Buff and Trouba and defensive revelation Josh Morrissey. The Knights have yet to face a blue line that is potent offensively either. Burns for the Sharks was dangerous at times but Big Buff is a two-way physical force. Not to mention he has put up 11 points. Again its just hard to see McNabb and Schmidt deliver where the Subban, Josi, Ekholm, and Ellis could not.
Advantage – Golden Knights.
This isn’t a huge advantage but its hard to deny how great Fleury has been. At 5v5 he has been a monster with a 96.5sv%. Plus leading all goalies with only giving yup 8 goals and having a 93.75 high danger sv%. That means he is stopping almost everything from the circles in. That’s elite. Plus he has the cups to back up his experience. Say what you will about how much experience matters, I feel that it matters most when talking about goaltending in the NHL. Hellebuyck, on the other hand, is having a pretty darn good post season himself with a 94sv% 5v5 himself. Finally coming into his own this season and putting in the work this season to be a Vezina finalist and getting to the conference final, Id say he is not too far behind Fleury. Some might argue He’s faced the tougher offensive this post season but its pretty close.
Vegas Baby.. VEGAS!!!
Look, nobody saw this coming. Everyone mocked them at the “fantasy” expansion draft. Nobody thought Fleury had anything left in the tank. Not a soul on the planet could of predicted Wild Bill Karlsson would have a 40 goal season. So hell, why pick against them now?
Prediction – Sorry, the house is finally going to lose this one. I gotta go against my heart and pick the Jets in 6.