It was a fitting tribute from both ends. Coach Bruce Cassidy, himself a castoff by the Boston Bruins last season, decided to start five of the six original Misfits for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. Captain Mark Stone, himself a sixth-round pick later acquired by the Golden Knights in a bargain deal, scored a hat trick in the Cup deciding game and promptly passed the Stanley Cup directly to the remaining six Misfits.
Those six players, Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Brayden McNabb, Shea Theodore, and William Carrier, form not only the cornerstone of the Golden Knights roster but the franchise identity, too.
Despite being the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and facing an underdog opponent in the Stanely Cup Final, it was the Golden Knights who had a chip on their shoulder.
While walking his dog late morning Tuesday, Cassidy had an idea, though he had to apologize to Carrier.
“I was walking my dog as we spoke about (before the game), thinking about different things, and I thought it would be a good way to get the guys’ attention and reward the originals, the guys who laid the foundation for this hockey team,” Cassidy said. “I apologized to Will Carrier. You can only start one left winger. I thought it would be nice. See if it would give us a little juice.”
The move probably underscored the value of the Golden Knights’ history more than it helped the Golden Knights, who were a bit sloppy and careless with the puck in the game’s opening minutes. Yet, they never trailed.
When Stone scored a shorthanded goal midway through the first period, his roar could be heard over the record crowd of 19,058, another testament to the Misfits.
It was they who built hockey in Vegas. Owners, GMs, and coaches can all share some credit, but at the beating heart of the franchise is the camaraderie and success which sprang from a group of guys their previous teams didn’t want. They weren’t claymation or stop motion animation but the misfit toys that formed a perfect situation together.
To the roar of the 19,000 fans and teammates who intimately understood the legacy, the Misfits exchanged the Stanley Cup between themselves. It was a moment that was predicted six years ago by owner Bill Foley and has been tantalizingly close four times prior but was never guaranteed. Many around hockey thought the Florida Panthers were the team of destiny and the Golden Knights would be the fourth upset victim.
The Panthers were no match for the unfinished business of the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Misfits lifted the Stanley Cup. Finally.