The 2020 Playoffs did not go the way the Vegas Golden Knights, or anyone around the league, expected it to go. The prolific VGK offence that ripped through the round-robin and Chicago Blackhawks in the first round ran out of steam somewhere against the Vancouver Canucks in Round 2 and looked dismal during the Western Conference Final against the Dallas Stars. But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t moments that called for extreme celebration during Vegas’ time in the bubble. Here’s a look at the three best stories from the Golden Knights’ 2020 Playoff run:
3. Standing Up by Taking a Knee
In a time of social uprising in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, all eyes turned to the sports world to see what the various leagues, teams, and players would do. The NHL has often caught some flak for not being proactive in the fight against racism, and many were watching the bubble with an incredibly critical eye because of this.
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Fans and casual observers alike wondered who, if anyone, would be the first to take a knee during their game’s playing of the national anthems. Matt Dumba of the Minnesota Wild was the first to make a statement when he gave a speech ahead of the Blackhawks’ play-in series against the Edmonton Oilers on behalf of the Hockey Diversity Alliance. Dumba stayed on the ice for the anthems, taking a knee as Malcolm Subban and Darnell Nurse rested their hands on his shoulder.
It was Golden Knights’ Ryan Reaves who took the first pre-game knee while in uniform, ahead of Vegas’ opener against the Stars. He was joined by teammate Robin Lehner, as well as Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickenson of the Stars. The moment may have been short but it said a lot about the caliber of character present in the Golden Knights lineup.
2. Shea Theodore Shows Up
He had been building towards it for a long time, but defenseman Shea Theodore finally broke through during the 2020 Playoffs. The 25-year-old wrapped up life in the bubble with 19 points in his 20 games. Theodore has been progressing at a steady rate since joining the team from Anaheim, but really stepped up to the plate this year, finishing with a total of 46 points.
The biggest element of Theodore’s game to surge during the playoffs was his power-play presence, which is especially impressive when you consider the lacklusterness of the Vegas man-advantage unit. The young Canadian finished with three goals and eight assists on the power play alone, as he grew into the quarterback of the man advantage.
With guys getting older, Theodore is coming into form at the perfect time. He’s poised to be a consistent first-pairing guy, meaning the organization will be able to comfortably move on from the likes of Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland.
1. Comeback in the Come Back
Like curling up into your own bed after a long time away from home, the Golden Knights’ return to play was a comfort like no other. Though it wasn’t comfortable the whole time, kicking off meaningful hockey in the bubble with a comeback win was a moment that wouldn’t be topped.
Despite Vegas going up early in the first period of their first round-robin matchup, they found themselves down 3-1 heading into the third period of play. What ensued was a thrilling show of offensive talent, as if to tell Dallas that they weren’t the only ones who could put up a three-goal period.
It started with a Mark Stone snipe past Ben Bishop to get his team within a goal. With the momentum rolling, Reilly Smith set up Nate Schmidt just 1:29 later to tie the score. The winning goal was a product of William Carrier’s silky mitts as he pulled off the between-the-legs finish. The exclamation point came courtesy of a William Karlsson empty netter.
Just like that, hockey was back, the Golden Knights had won, and for a brief moment, all felt right with the world.
There you have it; the top three storylines to come out of Vegas’ bubble life. Does your list look like ours? Let us know down below what you would have included when compiling the best Golden Knights’ moments of these peculiar playoffs.