They are ready. The phrase wasn’t a catchphrase or T-shirt quip but most certainly an overriding sentiment. The Vegas Golden Knights feel like they have solved the Florida Panthers and anxiously await their chance to throw the knockout punch.
The Golden Knights would have been willing participants if the leagues asked them to spontaneously play Game 5 at noon Monday. They would have been eager participants. Instead, they must wait until Tuesday afternoon. They were even more affirming after a rowdy crowd at Golden Knights practice.
“We’re aware of what’s at stake and how big of a game for guys as individuals and organization to the city, all those things,” But it’s what we play for, so we’re ready for it.”
There is an air about this team. I’ve covered multiple Stanley Cup winners before. And the tone becomes one of silent aggression and confidence. It’s quite fun and impressive to be around. When a team locks in and knows in their heart and head they’re going to win, it feels like an unstoppable march of destiny.
Losing teams use words like hope. Winning teams speak with expectation and clear-eyed determination.
The Golden Knights have that look and sound. There are no nerves, at least not yet, for Game 5 and the potential realization of childhood dreams and professional aspirations.
“We’ve put ourselves in a spot where we (wanted to be when we) set out on Sept. 12th or whatever it was when we started training camp. We’ve put ourselves in a position to achieve what we wanted to achieve,” captain Mark Stone said. “So obviously, I was thinking about it, but I think you try to stay (in the moment). You try and stay in the moment and understand that we’ve got to be ready for Game 5.”
The VGK felt they let a sweep slip away by not protecting the net at the end of Game 3. It was a frank admission from Cassidy after Game 4. The Stanley Cup series has been decidedly in the Golden Knights’ favor for most of the first four games. Recall Jonathan Marchessault letting it slip after Game 2, “we know we’ve got them.”
The Golden Knights know what comes next. There won’t be a letdown or an easing up like in the Western Conference Final. There’s nothing to look ahead to this time. The prize awaits.
“I don’t get nervous a lot. It’s more anxious to get playing, want to see where we’re at, like, what’s going to happen?” Cassidy said.
“But I’m going by the recent history. I think we’ve played well every game, pockets of the game, they’ve certainly been than us, but I feel overall our game is a good place, so I feel good about it. If our game wasn’t in a good place, I would probably have a knot in my stomach, wondering what was going to happen. But I like where it’s at.”
That recent history would be the Golden Knights showing up to win two straight against the Edmonton Oilers and close the series in six. Perhaps they got Cup fever for a few days but resoundingly squashed Dallas in Game 6 when the pressure was on. They put Florida in a chokehold in Game 4. The shot totals and the scoring chances were all suppressed.
If not for a once-in-a-lifetime shot by Brandon Montour that made a hard left, then a hard right off two Golden Knights late in the second period, the game would have been over at the end of the second period.
Florida is “hoping” to have Matthew Tkachuk available for Game 5. They are hoping to play well and hoping to win.
It seems like the Vegas Golden Knights are waiting to win.