It’s safe to say the Vegas Golden Knights are performing better than expected to start the 2017-18 season. After a week, the Golden Knights have a 3-0 record and sit at the top of the Pacific Division after a trio of incredible games to start their historic year.
Their performance hasn’t been flawless by any means, but it’s been held together by enough Marc-Andre Fleury saves and James Neal goals to catapult them into the national sports spotlight. Both Neal and Fleury are among the top five players in their respective roles to start out the year, and their explosive beginnings to the new season are the driving force behind Vegas’ strong opening.
Considering the history of weak starts by expansion teams in the NHL, the Golden Knights are doing something quite remarkable.
And, capped off by the viscerally emotional 5-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes in their home opener, the Golden Knights have made sports history, too. Thanks to their three-game win streak to start the season, Vegas has become the first expansion team in any of the four major professional leagues to start the year 3-0 since the San Diego Padres did so in 1969.
And what a ride it has been so far. The Golden Knights opened their season with a come-from-behind victory on two Neal tallies. Neal was again the linchpin of the operation in their first overtime win in franchise history in their second game of the season. Vegas’ leading goal scorer took a back seat for a little while in their home opener on Tuesday, but Neal ended the game with another two tallies on the night.
Fleury, on the other hand, has been one of the league’s best goaltenders as he’s allowed just four goals on 107 shots against through three games.
It’s a pace that’s clearly unsustainable for the Golden Knights, who will no doubt falter days, weeks, or months down the line in a strong Western Conference. Many project the Golden Knights to fall near the basement of the league, and for beneficial reasons rather than spiteful ones. It’s a drop that will come sooner rather than later, as Neal’s scoring touch evens back to the mean and Fleury stops bailing his defense out.
Even so, what the Golden Knights are doing right now is nothing short of remarkable. They’re already the talk of the league thanks to their dramatic victories, and their plucky spirit that has made them feel like a living, breathing NHL team in record time.
The toughest challenges are still ahead for Vegas, but this has been one incredible start to their first season as an NHL franchise.