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The Vegas Golden Knights had easily the best inaugural season for an NHL expansion team, but they aren’t settling for a playoff berth. After winning the Pacific Division, the Knights haven’t been overwhelmed by the playoff spotlight, grinding out two wins on home ice to take a 2-0 series lead over the Los Angeles Kings.
That doesn’t mean the Kings, who took the first wild-card position in the West with 98 points after a blazing hot start to the season, are out of this thing yet, however. The Kings are led by Anze Kopitar, who has put together a fantastic 92-point season, while Dustin Brown has continued his goal-scoring ways. The Kings are trying to consistently find the 11-2 team that started the season, but that’s proven difficult throughout long slumps this year.
During the regular season, the Golden Knights went 2-1-1 against the Kings (2-2 for the purposes of playoff records), with a goal differential of -1. Vegas mostly dominated the Pacific this year, and only had a .500 record or worse against the Kings and, funnily enough, the Oilers.
Here, we break down every angle of the first-round showdown and offer our predictions.
How to watch
TV: NBCSN, NBC CBC, TVA Sports, NHL Network, SN
Stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Follow: CBS Sports App
(All times ET)
* – If necessary
- Game 1, Wednesday, April 11: Golden Knights 1, Kings 0
- Game 2, Friday, April 13: Golden Knights 2, Kings 1
- Game 3, Sunday, April 15: Golden Knights 3, Kings 2
- Game 4, Tuesday, April 17: Golden Knights at Kings, 10:30 p.m. — NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
- *Game 5, Thursday, April 19: Kings at Vegas Golden Knights, 10 p.m. — TBD
- *Game 6, Saturday, April 21: Golden Knights at Los Angeles Kings, TBD
- *Game 7, Monday, April 23: Kings at Vegas Golden Knights, TBD
NHL Playoffs odds
Here’s a look atto advance via SportsLine, not to mention their odds to win not only their conference, but also the Stanley Cup.
When they’re healthy, the Golden Knights are among the best goal-scoring units in hockey. William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith have comprised one of the most effective scoring first lines in the NHL. The Golden Knights ranked fifth in the league in scoring, putting up 268 goals over the course of the year. While undisclosed injuries to Marchessault and David Perron may spell trouble, if the best players are on the ice, this is one of the scariest offensive teams in hockey — and as long as leader Karlsson is on the ice the Golden Knights will put up points.
The Kings, meanwhile, struggled with top-heavy scoring all season. If Kopitar or Brown weren’t scoring, the Kings weren’t scoring, plain and simple. Tyler Toffoli got in on the action this year, putting up 24 goals himself, but if you’re a Kings fan and a team survives your first line, you’re just counting down the minutes until they got back on the ice. It’s a frustrating existence, and the lack of depth is definitely something that Vegas can capitalize on in a series.
EDGE: Golden Knights
The Kings have been eviscerated on the blue line by injuries, with Derek Forbort already expected to miss time this series and Jake Muzzin sustaining an injury at the end of March. Paul Ladue has filled in nicely for the Kings in the pinch, and Kopitar is an excellent defensive forward. For the Golden Knights, Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb have gotten consistent minutes whereas Deryk Engelland has been an enforcer of sorts. The injuries make this tough, but if Muzzin plays and Forbort returns in this series then the choice becomes clear.
Once again, we see weird factors at play here, specifically which goalie stats are “real.” The Kings gave up less goals than any team in hockey, and Jonathan Quick was a big part of that. However, Fleury was a huge part of the Golden Knights’ surprising success this year. Where it’s hard to not be impressed by Quick’s durability in goal, Fleury was consistent between the pipes with worse defense for much of the year. The Golden Knights will end up going as far as he takes them, whereas Quick is just a cog in the Kings’ defensive mechanisms.
Neither of these teams were amazing on the offensive side of the power play, with Vegas ranking 10th in the NHL with a 21.4 percent conversion rate (53 of 248). The Kings, meanwhile, were 17th at 20.4 percent, scoring on 49 of their 240 opportunities. Erik Haula and Karlsson led the Golden Knights in PP goals, while (surprise!) Kopitar and Brown led the way for the Kings. The Kings, however, were first in the NHL on the kill, allowing just 39 goals on 260 attempts, an 85 percent kill rate. Vegas hung in at 10th in the league, allowing 44 goals in 237 chances, putting them at 81.4 percent.
Skiver: I could easily see this series going to seven games, because the Kings’ defense may be able to at least mollify the relentless Golden Knights’ goal-scorers, but the Golden Knights have something I don’t see out of the Kings: Depth. The Kings need to find goals from someone other than Kopitar or Brown, and I don’t see that happening just for this series. While I think the Kings’ defense is definitely better, I think this will come down to the Golden Knights simply outscoring the Kings. Vegas in 6.
Benjamin: The Kings aren’t as good as their goal differential says they are, and yet they’re serious spoilers because of Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar and their playoff experience. But who am I kidding? Vegas is too good a story to pick against. William Karlsson is ablaze, and their plethora of offensive depth should be enough to squeak by L.A. Vegas in 7.
Blackburn: For all of Vegas’ success in the regular season, there still remains doubt in my mind about their legitimacy as a true contender. This should be a tight series and there are question marks on both ends, but if the Kings can get a decent effort from their offense, I have faith in their defense, goaltending and special teams unit to keep Vegas at bay. Kings in 6.