It’s Time To Talk About Hockey
Remember that scene from Casino (1995) where Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci are talking about all the bodies buried out in the Vegas desert? That’s what the Las Vegas Golden Knights just did to three professional grade playoff teams. We’re gonna need a search party for the Kings, Sharks, and Jets cause I’m pretty sure they’re all shallow graving it right now in that sweltering sun. With a 2-1 over the Winnipeg Jets this weekend, the Golden Knights became the first modern expansion team in the history of the four major American sports to get to not only win their division but get to a finals. (The St. Blues did it in the 60s apparently, but that was a different time when like 10 teams played.) Keep in mind, we're talking about the Stanley Cup Finals, not some minor league deal. We're talking about them making it in 227 days since they played their first game ever. And now they're four games from winning everything.
The NHL postseason is consistently the best of any major league in large part cause the competition remains so even. Absolute blood bath out on the ice this time of the year. Unless you’re Vegas apparently. They’re sporting a 12-3 record in the postseason, including a sweep of the Kings, a 4-2 series with the Sharks, and only giving up one to the Jets. Yeah, what the fuck is right. You almost feel sorry for Vegas fans at this point cause you know the bar is set this high forever. It’s like getting really good grades in 1st grade and watching it all slip from there. Will that happen to this franchise? Only time will tell, but right now they've got bigger and better things to worry about.
Let’s acknowledge how absolutely badass this team is. Starting the season in the wake of the worst mass shooting in our country’s history in a market that doesn’t boast any other major sports franchise (yet), and doing it all with a roster of players working together for the first time. This season had 25 wins written all over it, right? Apparently you’re not familiar with the knights' code of not giving a single fuck about the s’pposed tas in life. They're just here to play hockey and maybe get some downtime at the slots every now and then.
Many of us are wondering how the hell did the Golden Misfits as they call themselves do it? For one, 3x Stanley Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury's insane dominance this postseason and the bajillion saves he's recorded for the team. For two, the grit and guts exhibited by players basically cast off by their former teams, a sentiment that extends to coach Gerard Gallant, the same guy who the Florida Panthers not only fired early into the 2016 season, but literally cast him off to the side of the fucking road after a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. (No, really. He was fired that night and forced to get his luggage off the team bus and call his own taxi to the airport cause the Panthers wouldn't allow him to ride back home with the team. This same Panthers team has happened to miss the playoffs in the two years since, but that's none of my business.) The Knights are also a top 10 team in many statistical categories, including special teams play and penalty minutes. All good. But what few people want to admit is that the factor really driving this team's success may be their pre-game opener at home.
If this opener doesn't inspire everyone to follow their dreams, let alone win a hockey game, then this world truly has no future. I mean what did I just watch? Jousting, flaming arrows, cool music, impeccable narration, and A DUDE KILLIING A FIGTHER JET WITH HIS SWORD. I don't care who you are or what you do, this is the greatest thing I've seen since watching a man play "Smooth Criminal" on his barrel organ in the middle of his wood pile. I'm serious. It's like going to Medieval Times (remember that??) as a kid but you always win and there's actual fighting, albeit during the game itself. If you're the Golden Knights you can't afford to follow up the most boss pre-gaming experience with a loss. It's just not a great look. A guy just beat an literal projected image of a jet. The least you can do is beat a hockey team that hardly look like jets.
Now we're just waiting on the Tampa Bay Lightning and D.C. Capitals, to finish each other off. The Caps pulled off a dominant 2-0 win against Lightning in D.C. last night and swing it back to Tampa Bay. For the record, I want D.C. to win. I want Ovechkin to get to a finals and win it all. They're got a great road record in the playoffs but also got smushed over three games in the middle of this series. So once the east takes care of business, the Stanley Cup finals are in full-swing baby! And thank the good lord, cause the NBA is giving us nothing to work with. Every single game of the conference finals has ended in blowouts, and I mean BLOWOUTS. 30, 40 point wins just screams a pathetic product. Teams literally going comatose for a whole 48 minutes of play. Not good! So while the Warriors prepare their "this was our toughest year as a team, but we really came together to destroy absolutely everyone in our wake" speech, hockey will provide us with one of the greatest sports tales ever in the Vegas Golden Knights.
Oh, and Wayne Newton. And the Backstreet Boys. Being spotted by a dinosaur. In front of a giant castle. Just another Wednesday in Sin City.
Daniel "Rico" Vidales is a musician and educator who has done time in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Houston. He also has a master's degree in musicology that he plans to use at some point. In addition to writing about music, Rico enjoys doing other things with music, podcasting, and arguing about sports.