The 2022/23 NHL season has now officially met its conclusion which culminated in the recently established expansion franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights, winning their first Stanley Cup title since entering into the league back in 2017 following a comfortable Finals series win over the Florida Panthers.
Both the NHL regular season and playoffs provided hockey fans with a plethora of action-packed moments that will forever be engraved into the game’s folklore, with plenty of surprise outcomes also being presented to fans throughout the course of the campaign.
Several star names were once again able to prove their worth at the top level whilst other ‘less established’ players would soon make a strong case to be heavily involved in the superstar conversation that merits and recognizes the top talents that the league has to offer on a regular occurrence.
Many of the league’s most respected and highly touted franchises would also meet throughout the course of the season and even during several unmissable playoff encounters that seemingly went down to the wire.
After a truly remarkable NHL season, the final two sides remaining heading into the prestigious Stanley Cup Finals series was the parlay favorites in the Vegas Golden Knights and their surprising adversary the Florida Panthers.
The Knights would eventually cruise to their first Stanley Cup title winning series in the franchise’s short but illustrious tenure which has truly marked this young club as one of the best expansion teams in recent North American sports history.
Vegas’ pathway to NHL success:
After cruising to a first seed in the Western Conference with an impressive 111 points and a goal difference of +43, the Knights were primed to enter the NHL postseason as surefire Stanley Cup contenders, which became very apparent during their opening round series.
Vegas would dispatch the Winnipeg Jets in a 4-1 series win, setting up a much-anticipated encounter with the two seeded Edmonton Oilers in the second round.
After the series was tied up at two games each, Vegas would narrowly edge the Oilers 4-3 in game five, before clinching the series with a decisive 5-2 win to earn passage into the Conference Finals in six games.
In the Western Conference Finals, Vegas would face off against the fourth seeded Dallas Stars who they would take a 3-0 series lead over following two overtime wins in game’s one and two, before thrashing Dallas by a scoreline of 4-0 the following game which set the Knights up with a chance to earn a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Despite Dallas winning game four 3-2 in overtime and the next resulting contest 4-2 a few days later, Vegas would crush the Stars with a formidable 6-0 demolition in the penultimate best of seven game which ensured that the Knights would make an appearance in this year’s Stanley Cup Finals for the second time in franchise history.
In the Finals, Vegas would face-off against the eighth seeded Eastern Champions Florida Panthers who had enjoyed a ‘Cinderella’ run to their second ever finals appearance which included a thrilling seven game series over the top seeded Boston Bruins, a five-game win over the Toronto Maple Leafs and even a sweep over the Carolina Hurricanes in the Conference Finals.
Despite both the Panthers and their neighboring eighth seeded NBA franchise, the Miami Heat, both making a finals appearance against all the odds, they would also both suffer the same fate with the Golden Knights winning the series in five games ending a truly astounding postseason of action.
Florida’s only win in the series came in a game three overtime victory, but they certainly showed plenty of fight in a close loss in game four, however virtually every other game was a clinical showing by Vegas which concluded with a devastating 9-3 blowout to win the franchise its first ever Stanley Cup.
The top performers for Vegas during their postseason run:
There were a vast number of sublime individual performers throughout the course of the regular season and playoffs for the Knights which included the likes of Centre Jack Eichel who would finish as arguably the most versatile offensive threat in the heart of the Vegas team as he ended the postseason with twenty assists and six goals scored in 26 total games.
Left Winger Jonathen Marchessault also contributed greatly to the team’s success with 13 goals and 12 assists, alongside fellow winger Mark Stone who netted 11 times and racked up 13 assists.
Some other great performers included forward Chandler Stephenson who bagged ten times to go along with ten assists, as well as Centre Ivan Barbashev who tallied 11 assists and seven goals.
Overall, it has been a truly breathtaking and legendary season for all Golden Knights fans to enjoy and to celebrate as they have welcomed the sport of ice hockey to their world-renowned city and provided the bright-lights of Las Vegas with a club that is set for great success for years to come and one that is sure to encourage more leagues to take up a considerable interest in viewing Vegas as a viable market for future sporting events.