Marc-André Fleury is dominating the NHL playoffs again, and the expansion Vegas Golden Knights are cruising to the second round for the first time ever in their first opportunity ever. Vegas beat the Kings 1-0 Tuesday night to sweep their opening round opponents, and they’re the first team to get a playoff sweep in their inaugural season. They’re also the first to even make the playoffs since that wonky season in 1968 when half the league was brand new.
The weirdest thing about this win—from a preseason perspective, at least—is that it’s not even a surprise. Vegas was a reported 500-to-1 underdog to win the Stanley Cup at the start of the year, but only the defending conference champion Nashville Predators have had a better season in the West.
Goaltender Marc-André Fleury was crucial all season, but especially in these last four games. With a mind-blowing save percentage of .977 on the series, Fleury returned to a form that hadn’t been seen since perhaps his first Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009, shutting out L.A. twice and only allowing three total goals. In the nail-biter win tonight, he was repeatedly clutch on his 31 saves. This one in the third against Anze Kopitar was a particular triumph.
The Knights will face the Sharks in the next round, unless Anaheim can recover from a 3-0 series deficit. The Knights will be favored, whichever California team they play next. As they very much should be.