From the two elite teams at the top to the solid pair in the middle to the dumpster fire group on the bottom, the West has been anything but a gauntlet for the four teams that qualified for the postseason.
Vegas and Colorado ran away with it pacing not only the division but also the entire NHL. St. Louis and Minnesota each had their good and bad moments but neither were ever really in grave danger of missing out on the best time of the year.
But now, we’re here, and it’s all erased. From here, it no longer matters how many times you beat the Kings or Ducks, instead, it’s who can withstand a pair of seven-game series, emerge the true champion of the division, and represent the West in the NHL’s Final Four.
A lot is made at this time of year about experience. Whether we’re talking about Stanley Cup Champions or just NHL playoff experience in general, it’s always better to have it than not. For the Golden Knights, they have plenty of it.
We’ve been through that road the last three years. We’ve had good rounds and bad rounds and we know what to expect. We have a lot of playoff experience as a group. Obviously we’re not going to have an easy path if we want to go all the way but we have the gamers in that locker room that I’m confident we can go a long way here. -Jonathan Marchessault
In fact, the Golden Knights actually have more playoff experience, by games played, than any other team in the West Division. But not by much.
Vegas – 1,086 games
St. Louis – 1,035 games
Minnesota – 783 games
Colorado – 778 games
The Golden Knights are led by Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been on a team that’s qualified for the playoffs an insane 15 consecutive seasons. He, with Robin Lehner, have Vegas atop the goalie experience chart by a wide margin.
Goalie Playoff Experience
Vegas – 172 games (Fleury 146, Lehner 26)
Colorado – 55 games (Grubauer 23, Dubnyk 26, Francouz 6, Johansson 0)
St. Louis – 31 games (Binnington 31, Hussi 0)
Minnesota – 25 games (Talboy 25, Kahkonen 0)
Vegas does not lead in either position group, however. Despite having 13 forwards all with at least 10 games of experience under their belts, the Golden Knights’ 599 games of playoff experience rank them second behind St. Louis.
Forwards Playoff Experience
St. Louis – 651 games
Vegas – 599 games
Colorado – 578 games
Minnesota – 450 games
Both the Golden Knights and Wild have just one regular without a playoff game on the resume. For Vegas it’s Keegan Kolesar, on the Wild, it’s Kirill Kaprizov.
On the back end, Vegas once again looks up to the 2019 Stanley Cup Champions.
Defensemen Playoff Experience
St. Louis – 353 games
Vegas – 315 games
Colorado – 308 games
Minnesota – 145 games
With all this experience at the blue line, we should probably expect all three series to be fairly low scoring.
However you slice it, the Golden Knights are not new to this spotlight. They’ve been in the playoffs four years straight and have a roster made up of players that have lived through the massive swings the NHL Playoffs often bring.
They may not have much more of an experience benefit than any other team in this division, but it’s certainly not an excuse.