The Stanley Cup. It’s the ultimate goal for every hockey player, and for the Vegas Golden Knights, is something they have had their eyes on since year one of the franchise.
This year’s team may be the best the Golden Knights have ever looked on paper with Jack Eichel now in the mix, Chandler Stephenson playing out of his mind, and the core of the team still intact.
But we are not here to hypothesize on whether or not this team has what it takes to win the Stanley Cup. It is only January, we still have a lot of games left to play before the Golden Knights even play a playoff game this year.
As we sit in a game drought for the Golden Knights thanks to COVID-19 delays, let’s look at every member on the team and their history in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
What lessons have these players learned with other teams that can help the Golden Knights in their playoff runs? Which players struggle to get out of the first round? Who has never even played a playoff game?
For this exercise, I wanted to include everyone. Every player that has played a game for the Golden Knights this season (aside from Peyton Krebs for obvious reasons) along with Jack Eichel, every coach, owner Bill Foley, president of hockey operations George McPhee, and general manager Kelly McCrimmon.
Let’s get started.
Never Made the Playoffs
Seeing that Jack Eichel has never made it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs is a tad bit surprising until you remember what team he played for before coming to the Golden Knights. Eichel spent six seasons in the Buffalo Sabres organization and the highest the team ever finished with him on the roster was sixth in the Atlantic Divison.
It is crazy to think that the Golden Knights, who are shooting for the Stanley Cup, have a projected first-line center who has never played a single game in the playoffs before. Don’t worry though, this stat will change for Eichel soon enough.
Ben Hutton is the only other player in this section who has played for other NHL teams. I am a tad bit surprised that he never made it in with either the Vancouver Canucks or Los Angeles Kings.
Depth players in the Golden Knights organization such as Dylan Coghlan, Jonas Rondbjerg, Paul Cotter, Jake Leschyshyn, Daniil Miromanov, Pavel Dorofeyev, Logan Thompson, Ben Jones, Jake Bischoff, Dylan Ferguson, and Jiri Patera have all never made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in their young careers.
Due to the 2019-20 NHL season getting postponed due to COVID-19, the NHL squeezed in the end of the season and the start of the playoffs in the bubble in Edmonton. Both a round-robin tournament and an additional qualifying round for playoff bubble teams were played. That year the Vegas Golden Knights were one of the teams that did not have to qualify and were just able to play round-robin games.
But current members of the team that was on different teams at the time had to qualify and did so unsuccessfully. Brett Howden played three games for the New York Rangers as they were swept by the Carolina Hurricanes. Evgenii Dadonov also played four games with the Florida Panthers in their loss to the New York Islanders.
First Round Exit
A lot of interesting matchups fall into this category. First off, the Golden Knights are responsible for ending Michael Amadio’s hopes at the Stanley Cup when they swept him and the LA Kings in 2018. Sven Baertschi is here (I told you I was including everyone). He made it six games into the second round with the Canucks before losing to the Calgary Flames.
The other two names on this list were eliminated in two very notable series. First off, Nolan Patrick’s only trip to the playoffs came with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2018 who were defeated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. That was the series where Flyers fans threw beer cans on the ice. Lastly, Adam Brooks made it to the first round with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season and they led the Montreal Canadiens 3-1. We all know what happened next.
Second Round Exit
The only player in this category is backup goaltender Laurent Brossoit who made it to game seven of the second round in 2017. He did so with the Edmonton Oilers as they lost their series to the Anaheim Ducks. Brossoit played only one game in the Oilers’ run that year, coming in relief for Cam Talbot in a 7-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
It will be interesting to see how Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer handles the goaltending load for the Golden Knights this season. Marc-Andre Fleury played every playoff game for the Golden Knights in years one and two. In year three Robin Lehner played 16 games and Fleury only 4. Last season Fleury played 16 and Lehner 3.
We are now getting into deep playoff territory. If you are keeping track, there are still plenty of names left to discuss on the Golden Knights roster. This means that most of the roster has had some substantial playoff experiences.
Conference Finals Loss
A big bulk of players that are on the Golden Knight’s current roster were also on last year’s roster. That team reached the Conference Finals and lost to the Montreal Canadiens in six games. This is the furthest Robin Lehner has ever made it in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as playing in Buffalo and Ottawa did not get him far early in his career.
Important depth players for the Golden Knights in Nicolas Roy, Keegan Kolesar, Nicolas Hague, Zach Whitecloud will all be looking to wipe the taste out of their mouths after a disappointing loss to the Canadiens last season. Assistant coaches Mike Rosati and Dave Rogowski are here as well.
Max Pacioretty has reached game six of the Conference Finals two times in his career. Last season with the Golden Knights, and also in 2014 with the Canadiens who lost to the New York Rangers. Lastly, captain Mark Stone is here as he came the furthest with the Ottawa Senators in 2017 where the team was eliminated by Chris Kunitz in double overtime.
Stanley Cup Finals Loss
A good bit of Golden Knights are here and I think we all know why. In year one of the franchise, the Golden Knights went on a Cinderella run all the way to Game 5 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals. They eventually lost to the Washington Capitals who won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Looking back on it, the playoff experience for all of Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, Shea Theodore, William Karlsson, Brayden McNabb, and William Carrier can now be viewed as key playoff experiences as the team looks to finally clear the hurdle and win the Stanley Cup themselves.
2018 was also the furthest assistant coaches Ryan Craig, Ryan McGill, and Misha Donskov, as well as Golden Knights current general manager Kelly McCrimmon and owner Bill Foley, have made it. All of whom all deserve credit.
Two other coaches for the Golden Knights were able to make it one game further with the San Jose Sharks in 2016. That team was coached by Peter DeBoer and Steve Spott was there as an assistant. They lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals. Mattias Janmark also reached game six of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2020 with the Dallas Stars who lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Lastly, this one may surprise you. George McPhee has been in the NHL for a very long time, and since I am basing this on the furthest game a person has made it to, the furthest McPhee has made it came in 1994. Back then he was the Director of Hockey Operations for the Vancouver Canucks who lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals to the New York Rangers.
Stanley Cup Champions
The Golden Knights have three members of their team who have won a Stanley Cup. None of them are their own, but their playoff experiences and lessons can be passed down in the locker room in hopes of everyone on the team reaching this achievement. Alex Pietrangelo won the Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues in 2019, Chandler Stephenson in 2018 with the Capitals, and Alec Martinez is a two-time Stanley Cup Champion with the LA Kings in both 2012 and 2014.
Not only do the Golden Knights have three players who have reached the ultimate goal, but these three players are also core players on the team. Stephenson is still leading the team in scoring, and even though he was not a core player to the Capitals when he won the Stanley Cup with them in 2018, he certainly will be one with the Golden Knights.
Martinez is not just the only person on this list who has multiple Stanley Cups but is one of only seventeen players in NHL history who has scored a Stanley Cup-clinching overtime game-winning goal. He did so against Hendrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers in 2014.
Pietrangelo is perhaps the biggest name on this list and was the most important to his team’s efforts in winning the Stanley Cup. In his second to last year as a Blue, Pietrangelo scored three goals, 16 assists, and 19 points in 26 games and lifted the Stanley Cup at TD Garden after game seven of the finals.
These are the three players the Golden Knights want to follow this season once the Stanley Cup Playoffs start. These are the winners on the team. The ultimate goal of the Stanley Cup is a daunting challenge. But having members on the team that have been to the big dance and walked away with a win should serve as motivation for the 2022 Vegas Golden Knights.