For the second time in as many days, a North American major professional sports team has won its first championship in franchise history.
The Denver Nuggets won their first NBA Championship Monday night.
Sixth-Fastest Team to Win
The Golden Knights, who played their first season in 2017, won the Cup in their sixth year of existence, making them the fastest team to win it since the 1984 Edmonton Oilers, who did it in their fifth year.
When the Golden Knights first joined the league in 2017, many scoffed at owner Bill Foley’s declaration that the team would win the Cup within its first six years of existence.
Golden Knights Captain Mark Stone scored a hat-trick in the closing game of the series. Prior to the start of the playoffs, Stone hadn’t played since Jan. 12. After two major back surgeries in the span of nine months, many wondered whether he’d ever play again.
This was the first time in the NHL’s modern era in which a franchise’s first captain led the team to its first Stanley Cup championship.
Forward Jonathan Marchessault took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. Marchessault scored 13 goals and 25 points in the playoffs and finished the playoffs with a 10-game point streak — the longest in franchise history.
The Golden Knights acquired Marchessault from the opposing Panthers at the 2017 expansion draft. While that stings for Panthers fans, it’s worse when they consider that the Panthers traded Reilly Smith, who scored the Cup-winning goal, to the Golden Knights in exchange for agreeing to pick Marchessault.
The Panthers made the trade because they wanted to protect Alex Petrovic, who now plays in the minors for the Texas Stars.
Adin Hill, who hadn’t played a playoff game until the second round this year, backstopped the team to the championship, posting a .932 save percentage and a 2.17 goals-against average.
In Game One, Hill denied the Panthers from taking the lead with a diving save on Nick Cousins.
The save was identical to Braden Holtby’s “The Save,” which some argue turned the 2018 Stanley Cup Final in the favor of the Washington Capitals and against the Golden Knights. Hill’s save took place in the very same net as Holtby’s.
The Golden Knights acquired Hill from the Arizona Coyotes shortly before the season started in exchange for a fourth-round pick.
As a member of the Buffalo Sabres, Eichel didn’t make the playoffs a single time. When a medical dispute arose between Eichel and the Sabres, they traded him to the Golden Knights. No professional hockey player had ever had the spinal surgery that Eichel believed was best, but the Golden Knights took the risk and allowed him to get it.
The integrity of the surgery was put to the test in Game Two when Matthew Tkachuk laid a massive hit on him.
Eichel left the game for a short time, but soon returned and set up a goal in the third period. Despite not playing his first playoff game until his eighth year in the NHL, Eichel won the Cup.
Eichel became the first player in the NHL’s Salary Cap Era to win the Cup with a cap hit of $10 million or more.
Tkachuk missed the final game of the series with a broken sternum, which he suffered as a result of a hit from Vegas’ Keegan Kolesar.
The NHL’s concussion protocol team removed Tkachuk from the game after the hit to make sure his head was OK. After clearing the concussion tests, he returned to the game and scored the goal that sent the game to overtime. The Panthers would then score in overtime to win the game.
Tkachuk played Game Four with the injury, but couldn’t play Game Five.
It’s always worth noting who the captain hands the Cup to first. On Tuesday, it was the six remaining members of the inaugural Golden Knights team: Smith, Marchessault, William Karlsson, Brayden McNabb, Shea Theodore and William Carrier.
After Alec Martinez raised the trophy, he handed it to Jonathan Quick, who was his teammate for 11 years with the Los Angeles Kings. The two won the Cup together twice during their time in Los Angeles.
“Hockey’s poetic,” Martinez said in a post-game interview after Sportsnet reporter Elliotte Friedman asked him why he passed the Cup to Quick.
The Golden Knights have yet to announce a Stanley Cup parade.