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Galvanizing Moments: When Did Golden Knights Know They Could Win it All?



Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe Trophy, Vegas Golden Knights

Las Vegas — There are moments that every hockey team has. The potential for glory or the limitations becomes clear. The momentum accelerates for teams with a chance at glory, just as it did with the Vegas Golden Knights.

For some, that moment came later.

Ivan Barbashev, acquired from the St. Louis Blues near the NHL trade deadline, needed to feel the Dallas Stars’ pushback in the Western Conference Final before the Stanley Cup, or losing the chance, became a real thing.

In asking several Golden Knights players, there wasn’t a singular moment this season. Four players asked, four sets of wide eyes who didn’t have a specific answer.

They’ve just always known. They expected a chance.

Alex Pietrangelo and goalie Adin Hill used almost the same words to describe his path to optimism. The Golden Knights are four wins away from the Stanley Cup, but they’ll have to beat the Florida Panthers, who have rolled through three of the four best teams in the league.

The Golden Knights are the fourth.

“There can be multiple moments, you know, like starting with the series with Edmonton — You’ve got a really good team with the highly skilled players,” Barbashev said. “You win that series, and you go up 3-0 against Dallas, and then they come back with another two wins, and it’s just — There are a few things that go through your mind when they try and come back in a series … The team realized that we’re not going to sit back and give them a chance to get back in the series.”

The Golden Knights did take a breath up 3-0 against Dallas and responded with a resounding Game 6 win that left little dought which team was the cat and which team was the ball of yarn.

A new coach can bring energy and renewed buy-in. However, coach Bruce Cassidy replaced a somewhat popular Pete DeBoer in an unexpected coaching change.

Things started well for the Golden Knights in October. They won nine in a row from Oct. 24 to Nov. 10 and were 13-2-0. It was then that Adin Hill began to believe. The Golden Knights’ goalie was a big part of the hot start.

The confidence gained then stuck with Hill.

“I think we’ve kind of proven it all year. We started the year like 13-2 or something. So we got off to a hot start, and then sure, \you’re going to have dip throughout the year,” Hill said. “But I felt like throughout the year, we kind of proved that the whole time. We finished first in the West. So I don’t really know if there was a moment where it was like, ‘Oh, we can win this.’ I feel like everybody in our room had that thought all year.”

Hill started four of the nine games in the eye-catching nine-game win streak.

Pietrangelo is seen as one of the missing pieces. The Vegas Golden Knights didn’t have a top defenseman or center. After Pietrangelo became their top defenseman, the team acquired Jack Eichel from the Buffalo Sabres.

“You get nervous when a new guy comes in,” Captain Mark Stone said of Eichel before unleashing praise.

The 2022-23 NHL season was the first in a few years that Eichel was healthy.

Pietrangelo is not the captain but one of the team leaders. He, too, had that special feeling early in the process. There was no doubt or hesitation, though his confidence grew about two months into the season when he felt the team fully grasped Cassidy’s system.

When asked about that one galvanizing moment, Pietrangelo crossed his arms, leaned back in his chair, and looked off into the distance, searching for those crystalizing seconds. In the end, he, too, came back to the fact it’s always been there with the Vegas Golden Knights.

This team unknowingly simply expected to win.

“I don’t know if there was one specific moment, but we still finished first in the Western Conference. We were a good team throughout the year. I don’t think people talked about us enough–how good of a year we had,” Pietrangelo said. “We dealt with some stuff this year — injuries — I just felt like this year we played a lot of really good hockey.”

Four more wins to confirm that special feeling.

Four more wins to fulfill owner Bill Foley’s vision.

Four more.

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