The Vegas Golden Knights were really happy to win their first Pacific Division title after not making it to the playoffs last year. However, Alec Martinez, a defenseman for the team, says that even though this is an amazing achievement – they haven’t won anything yet, and still have a ways to go in the postseason.
On Thursday night the Golden Knights beat the Seattle Kraken 3-1, with a goal from Martinez in the second period to break the tie. This helped them to become Pacific Division champions and get 111 points. This ties their own record for most wins and also gave them home-ice advantage in the Western Conference. In the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs they will be facing off against Winnipeg Jets.
Vegas’ coach Bruce Cassidy said, “We achieved all that we could in the regular season [of the game]. We got the Division Title, which showed our hard work. Edmonton was also doing well around us and then we got Conference’s title as well – which is great!”.
At 12:37 of the second period, Vegas player Martinez scored a goal against Seattle goalie Grubauer. This was his third goal of the season and probably the most important one.
Ten minutes into the first period, Smith from Vegas also scored against Grubauer. Vince Dunn had passed him a ball from behind the Seattle goal which accidentally bounced off Smith’s skate and went in past Grubauer.
Chandler Stephenson scored a goal when he deflected the puck from his own zone with 38 seconds left.
Smith said that we should take a day to celebrate this success, even though there is still work left to do.
Jaden Schwartz scored the only goal of the game for Seattle, but it wasn’t enough since other players couldn’t convert their attempts either. Matty Beniers and Adam Larsson both missed when their shots hit the posts instead and Daniel Sprong’s breakaway attempt was stopped by Laurent Brossoit who got 31 saves in total.
The Seattle Kraken (46-28-8, 100 points) had a chance of catching Los Angeles and being in third place in the Pacific Division. But in the end, Los Angeles won their game against Anaheim making it impossible for Seattle to pass them. So, Seattle got the top wild card spot in the Western Conference instead.
The Seattle coach, Dave Hakstol said that his team played really hard and was able to generate some good looks. He thought they could have worked harder in the third period and created more.
They won’t know which team they should face in the playoffs until Friday night when Colorado and Dallas play their game in Nashville. Who they face will depend on who wins that game.
“The really fun part starts here. We play 82 games to give ourselves a chance,” Schwartz said. Phil Kessel set an NHL record and played in all 82 games this season for the 11th time in his career. Brayden McNabb and William Karlsson also made it through the 82 games without missing a day, while Ivan Barbashev reached his 82nd game; however, he must have played 59 of those with St. Louis first.
Larsson was the only one who played in every single game of the Kraken’s first two seasons, while four other players also appeared in each of those 82 games. Jack Eichel and Shea Theodore were both back playing for Vegas after missing 2 and 7 games respectively.
The Golden Knights will face the Winnipeg Jets in their first game next Tuesday. They have previously won all three of their games against the Jets this season. Seattle’s first game will be either at Dallas on Monday or Colorado on Tuesday, which depends on how Friday’s match turns out.