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Vegas rising: Fast facts on the NHL's hottest team

The Vegas Golden Knights are through to the Western Conference finals in their first season of existence after a thrilling Game 6 win over the San Jose Sharks on May 6; it's taken them just 10 games to secure the eight wins.

They're halfway to that most lofty of goals -- a Stanley Cup championship -- so it's time to examine just how ridiculous their run has been.


Expansion team, exshmansion team

The Golden Knights are the third team since 1960 to reach the semifinal round in their inaugural NHL/NFL/NBA/MLB season. They join the 1967-68 Minnesota North Stars and 1967-68 St. Louis Blues, a season in which all six NHL expansion teams competed in the same division (guaranteeing the league two expansion semifinalists). No MLB, NBA or NFL expansion team has reached a semifinal round in its inaugural season since 1960. The 1967-68 Blues were swept by the Canadiens 4-0 in the Stanley Cup Final.

Only one team in the NHL's expansion era (since 1967-68) has reached the Stanley Cup Final in its inaugural season.

Excluding expansion teams that joined leagues after a merger, Vegas is only the sixth expansion team in the NHL/NFL/NBA/MLB since 1960 to reach the playoffs in its inaugural season. The only NBA/NFL/MLB team to accomplish the feat was the 1966-67 Chicago Bulls, who went 33-48 in their first season.

Rare air for the Golden Knights

The Golden Knights became the first NHL team to clinch a playoff spot in its inaugural season since the Oilers and Whalers did so in 1979-80.

Not including franchises that came from a merger (such as the Oilers and Whalers from the WHA), the Golden Knights are only the sixth expansion team in the NHL/NFL/NBA/MLB since 1960 to make the playoffs in their first season.

Not only that, but they're the first such team to have a winning record in their inaugural season:

Never mind expansion teams; six franchises in the NHL/NFL/NBA/MLB haven't reached the semifinal round at all since 1967-68 (the NHL's expansion era). Note: The current Winnipeg Jets technically inherit the Atlanta Thrashers' franchise history (which began in 1999-2000), with prior franchise history residing with the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes.

A record-breaking inaugural season

The Golden Knights have set or tied several records for a franchise in its first season of existence:

  • Most points (109)

  • Only team to reach 100 points in inaugural season

  • Most wins, including home (29), road (22) and total (51)

  • First winning season by an expansion franchise in its inaugural season in the four major sports (since 1960)

  • Won eight straight games from Dec. 4 to Jan. 2, tying the 1976-77 Nuggets for the longest win streak by any pro sports franchise in its inaugural season over the past 60 years

  • Won eight straight home games from Oct. 15 to Nov. 24, tied for the longest home win streak by a franchise in its inaugural season in NHL history (1917-18: Toronto Arenas in the very first NHL season)

The sportsbooks got it wrong

No one saw this success coming, especially not the sportsbooks. From Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, the Golden Knights' over/under points total was 68.5, lowest in the NHL. They topped that figure on Jan. 30 in Calgary in their 49th game (out of 82).

At the start of the season, the Golden Knights had 500-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup, according to Westgate, which were the worst in the NHL. Now, those odds have jumped to 7-2.

The Golden Knights are not the only long shot in recent memory to make a run:

Is 2018 the Year of the Underdog?

The ascension of the Golden Knights is just another in a line of unexpected results produced in the 2018 calendar year (one that isn't even halfway over).

Nick Foles is the real-life Rocky: The Eagles beat the Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl LII for the franchise's first championship since 1960. Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles outdueled five-time champion Tom Brady with a 373-yard, three-touchdown performance best remembered for a touchdown he didn't throw but rather caught -- a 1-yard reception from tight end Trey Burton on a trick play nicknamed the "Philly Special."

The little 16-seed that could: No. 1 seeds had a 135-0 record all time against 16 seeds in the men's NCAA tournament, but UMBC scored one for the long shots. The Retrievers, who had lost to Albany 83-39 less than two months earlier, beat top-seeded Virginia 74-54 in the round of 64.

The power of Sister Jean: The most memorable underdog in the men's NCAA tournament wasn't UMBC but Loyola-Chicago, the fourth 11-seed to reach the Final Four. The Ramblers (inspired by 98-year-old team chaplain Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt) beat Miami, Tennessee, Nevada and Kansas State before losing to Michigan in the national semifinal.

Down go the UConn women: Notre Dame women's basketball lost four players to ACL injuries and had just seven healthy scholarship players on the roster for the NCAA tournament. But the Fighting Irish beat previously undefeated UConn in the Final Four and Mississippi State in the national championship behind a pair of jumpers with less than a second left from junior guard Arike Ogunbowale.

The 'Golden Misfits' led by impressive trio

Several players have posted career highs in goals and points this season for the Golden Knights, but none more notable than William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and Erik Haula.

"Wild Bill" Karlsson scored 43 goals this season, the most by a player for an expansion franchise in its inaugural season (one ahead of Brian Bradley's 42 for the 1992-93 Tampa Bay Lightning). Entering this season, Karlsson had only 18 career goals.

Marchessault was second on the Golden Knights with 75 points this season (Karlsson had 78). He scored more points this season than in the rest of his career combined (71 over four seasons since his debut in January 2013).

Haula recorded a career-high 55 points this season, including 29 goals (equaling his total in the previous two seasons combined, 14 in 2015-16 and 15 in 2016-17).