The opening shift of a Stanley Cup Final game is not typically a time to get sentimental with decision-making. The Golden Knights still needed to win one more game to reach the mountaintop, and they knew they were facing a team that had been in a 3-1 hole before and dug themselves out.
For Bruce Cassidy though, he knew the time was right.
To start Game 5, Cassidy went off script of both his forward lines and standard operating procedure and chose to tug on some heartstrings instead.
The starting lineup he selected was Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore, and Brayden McNabb. Five of the six original players from the inaugural season that began Vegas’ love affair with the Golden Knights.
I apologized to Will Carrier, I told him, I’m sorry, I can only start one left winger. -Bruce Cassidy
Cassidy reunited the greatest line in Vegas history and used McNabb and Theodore to start a game for the first time during the entire postseason. It was a risk, but he knew it was one worth taking.
You know what, that was just something I had a gut feeling on. I was walking my dog this morning and I thought, I’m going to start those guys. They deserve it. They laid the foundation here. They put the first building blocks in place. It was something to give them a little juice. So off they went. -Cassidy
What he may have underestimated was the “juice” it would also give Golden Knights fans in the building, at home in Vegas, and around the world.
The first-year team will forever remain in the hearts of every fan that joined the magnificent journey this franchise has taken them on. The Stanley Cup season will be immortalized in a different and maybe even better way moving forward, but nothing can erase what happened in 2017.
Cassidy’s decision to lean into it rather than away forever linked the two teams in a way that didn’t seem possible heading into this year, or even into Tuesday’s game.
What may look like a subtle gesture to a non-VGK fan, was the furthest thing from it for each and every person who has been there since Year 1.
The 2017-18 team did not complete the ultimate dream, but a simple gesture made by a coach five years later has made it feel like they did.
Six years in the making, the story is complete. The Vegas Golden Knights are Stanley Cup champions.