The first round of NHL's 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs is almost over, so here's a recap of some of the action from each series on the Western Conference.
(1) Vegas Golden Knights vs. (Wild Card No. 1) Los Angeles Kings
What’s happened? Knights swept Kings.
Perched and silenced outside of King Jeff Carter’s castle, a bloody overthrow awaited the king and all his men. Sometimes an overthrow is necessary for change in the Western Conference. In the beginning, this group was labeled as rag-tag and unjust, and was doubted by the likes of its superiors.
For the last seven months, the rags turned into polished armor, laughable branches into sticks strong as swords, and a sense of togetherness and unity for a mission to be more than the royalty and peasants alike made them out to be.
If anyone is surprised by the level of success Golden Knights have had, then they clearly haven’t watched closely enough.
A team built from scratch, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and forward William Karlsson have led the charge and left the roundtable in the dust.
Fleury, the Penguins' former goalie, has been noted for his playoff struggles. Perhaps all he needed was a move out west. The 33-year-old posted two shutouts in Vegas’ first round sweep over Los Angeles.
As they’ve slain Kings, the Knights in their quest for ultimate satisfaction must go through an almost mythological creature. The kings of the seas. The Sharks.
(2) Anaheim Ducks vs. (3) San Jose Sharks
What’s happened? Sharks swept Ducks.
As they rested on their perch by the shore, all of the Ducks saw what was coming.
But not one said anything to the others. Not one Duck decided to step up above the rest and alert the others of the imminent danger in front of them that would make their downfall rather quick — duck hunting season had arrived.
The Sharks took advantage of the Ducks’ lack of offensive attack. San Jose ousted Anaheim 16-4 in the quick series, and not one player on the Ducks managed to notch more than a single goal in the sweep.
(1) Nashville Predators vs. (Wild Card No. 2) Colorado Avalanche
What’s happened? Predators won series 4-2.
It’s obviously extremely impressive that, in its first year as an expansion team, Vegas made the playoffs. But it’s almost as equally impressive that the Avalanche snuck into the playoffs this season despite finishing last season with an abysmal 22-56-4 record, dead last in the league by 21 points.
So what gives? Well, Nathan MacKinnon scored 97 points in the regular season (he scored just 53 a season ago) and basically carried Colorado out of the hidden cellar inside the cellar in the Western Conference.
If that’s not enough to win the Hart Memorial Trophy, which is given to the league’s MVP, then who knows what is.
Well, the Avs didn't look too hot in the playoffs. No one was really expecting them to advance because they played the Predators. Nashville is the holder of the Presidents’ Trophy, given to the team with the best regular season record, and hasn't slowed down at all since surprising everyone with a runner-up finish for the cup last year.
(2) Winnipeg Jets vs. (3) Minnesota Wild
What’s happened? Jets won series 4-1.
The Winnipeg Jets have flown far and high passed the expectations of what their critics laid out for the franchise. After missing the playoffs for the last three years, a culmination of strong offense mixed with solid goaltender has put the Jets right where they want to be.
Goalie Connor Hellebuyck in the regular season held a 2.46 goals against average, and it has carried into the playoffs — he’s posted a 1.93 GAA in Winnipeg's first series.
Who would’ve expected a Jets vs. Vegas matchup in the Western Conference finals? That’s likely what fans will get.