The Golden Knights’ 33rd win matches the single-season mark by a first-year team, but Vegas can reach another incredible milestone if they maintain this pace.
It’s starting to get a bit baffling. Somehow, someway, the Vegas Golden Knights keep finding ways to win. Much has been written about the ragtag assembly of the team through the expansion draft, the injury-related goaltending carousel and the breakouts of several players who have helped propel the team to success. But it’s really reaching the point where fans of the league’s other 30 teams are on the brink of a Jesse Pinkman-esque exclamation that the Golden Knights can’t keep getting away with this.
The latest instance of the Vegas adding another victory to their already-surprising total — and a win that was plucked straight from the jaws of defeat, no less — came Tuesday in Calgary. Late in the third period, the Golden Knights a goal back of the Flames, who were red-hot in their own right and riding an 11-game point streak entering the outing. But with two minutes remaining in the contest, Reilly Smith carried the puck up ice, moved it to David Perron where a miscue by Calgary’s Michal Frolik resulted in a tap-in for Erik Haula. Tie game. It took all of 10 seconds after the puck was dropped post-tying goal for Jonathan Marchessault to put Vegas in the lead before Perron iced the contest with an empty-net tally little more than 30 seconds later.
The Golden Knights’ victory was notable in that it halted the Flames’ point streak. It was notable in that it pulled Vegas within one point of the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning in the Presidents’ Trophy race. But, more than anything, it was notable in that it helped the Golden Knights rewrite yet another piece of the record book. The win was Vegas’ 33rd of the season, tying them for the most wins by an NHL club in its inaugural season since the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks had twin 33-win campaigns in 1993-94.
It goes without saying that the 33-win record is one the Golden Knights will break, possibly even as early as Thursday when they venture into Winnipeg to square off against the Jets in a battle of the Western Conference’s top two teams. And if not then, the record will almost assuredly fall shortly thereafter. Then, with each subsequent win, Vegas will continue to add to the legend of the first-year club that came out of nowhere to shock the entire league.
By season’s end, chances are the Golden Knights will also have records for most points by a first-year club. The record is currently held by the 83-point 1993-94 Panthers. Vegas also stands to boast the most potent offense that any expansion franchise has ever had. Presently they’re on pace for 278 goals, which would be the best mark since the league had its first round of expansion in 1967-68. There’s also going to be the matter of the Golden Knights making the post-season, which is all but a certainty at this point. While not a first for expansion clubs, Vegas’ berth into the playoffs will be the first time an expansion team has made the post-season since the first wave was given its own division and four entrants into playoffs.
But what shouldn’t go unnoticed as Vegas continues to smash records for team success in an inaugural season is that the Golden Knights’ winning ways are actually putting them on pace to achieve something that’s remarkably rare for even the most storied franchises or organizations that have had the ability to draft and develop talent on top of talent. By winning their 33rd game in their 49th contest of the season, Vegas is now on pace to win 55 games this season. If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. And reaching such heights is an incredible feat.
In the post-lockout NHL, only three times has a team won 55 or more games in a season: the 2005-06 Detroit Red Wings and the 2015-16 and 2016-17 Washington Capitals. That’s out of a total of 330 individual 82-game seasons, meaning 55-win seasons have happened for less than one-one thousandth of the total seasons played since the lockout. And across the entire history of the post-expansion NHL, the 55-win list only expands by eight more teams, so you can imagine how astronomically unlikely it has been for a team to win 55 games in a campaign. Yet, Vegas stands to become one of the dozen teams — or possibly 13 if the Lightning win 55 games this season, too — to have reached the plateau.
Truth be told, it’s hard to even rule out Vegas setting the high-water mark in the post-lockout era, a record currently held by the Red Wings in the first campaign back after the lost season. In 2005-06, Detroit finished with a 58-16-8 record, good for 124 points and the Presidents’ Trophy. Matching that record would mean Vegas can only lose a total of eight of its next 33 games. And while that admittedly seems unlikely and would require a couple of lengthy win streaks, does it really seem so far-fetched when the Golden Knights are currently boasting an 18-4-3 record over their past 25 games? Or how about when Vegas has gone 14-3-2 since Marc-Andre Fleury returned from injury?
Talent, magic or just sheer dumb luck. Heck, blame it on the so-called Vegas Flu, if you’d like. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that Vegas is destined to rewrite the record book in one way or another, and it wouldn’t be altogether surprising if they join the 55-win club or set a new benchmark for wins in a season in the post-lockout NHL.
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