The bookies in this gambling city have to be getting a bit nervous.
Hockey fans Tyquan Lewis Color Rush Jersey , though, are nothing short of ecstatic.
They screamed, danced and cheered as the goals came one right after another in a first period blitz Thursday night as the Vegas Golden Knights remained undefeated in the playoffs by dominating the San Jose Sharks 7-0 in the opening game of the Western Conference semifinals.
The hottest show on the Las Vegas Strip got even hotter as the Knights – who were 200-1 at many sports books to win the Stanley Cup before the season began – opened their second playoff series with a rout of the Sharks that was over before the Zambonis hit the ice.
This had nothing to do with the so-called Vegas Flu that has overcome some visiting teams who might have not resisted some of the pleasures on the Las Vegas Strip. This was a simple beat down, by a group of players who had never been together on the ice before the season began.
”It’s not going to be like this every night,” Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. ”We’re going to enjoy this and move on.”
Once again, the Knights played like no expansion team ever before. Once again, they showed that perhaps the fantasy of bringing the Stanley Cup to the Las Vegas Strip may not be such a fantasy after all.
And once again, 18,444 fans sang ”Viva Las Vegas” and went home happy – but not before watching Fleury join them in doing the wave in the closing minutes.
”It’s a great home crowd,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. ”We like them a lot.”
There’s a lot to like about a team that a year ago was nothing more than an expansion project with an uncertain future. Now the Knights are tearing through the playoffs like a hot dice thrower at the craps table.
That might be a problem at the sports books, which are on the hook for possibly millions if the Knights should win it all. But it’s playing out nicely around the rest of Las Vegas, which is awash in Knights merchandise as the city that has never had a major sports team eagerly embraces one that is its very own.
If getting to the playoffs was seen as almost impossible before the season began, the Knights are 5-1 in sports books on the Strip to win it all Trenton Cannon Color Rush Jersey , just behind Nashville and Tampa Bay as favorites.
With good reason. The Knights are the only remaining unbeaten team in the playoffs, and have the hottest goalie around. Fleury, picked up from Pittsburgh in the expansion draft, got his third shutout of the playoffs and has allowed only three goals in five games.
He didn’t allow any against the Sharks, stopping 33 shots to record the shutout.
”I don’t go looking at my stats,” Fleury said. ”A win is a win and I’ll try my best to get my team a win. That’s what it’s all about.”
The team that proudly declares itself Vegas Born thrilled a raucous crowd at the T-Mobile arena, scoring three goals within a span of 1:31 in the first period to pretty much put the game away early.
Against a team that – like the Knights – swept their opening series, they turned the game into a rout early. Seven players scored goals, though with Fleury in net there was no way seven would be needed.
”You don’t get extra points for winning by a touchdown like they did,” San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said. ”We just have to be better.”
Earlier, Knights general manager George McPhee talked about how good the team he put together might be. But even he had to be surprised at the ease the Knights, coming off a nine-day layoff after sweeping the Los Angeles Kings, won their second-round opener.
”We think we’re a pretty good club but we’ll keep trying to do what we do and see where it takes us Deadrin Senat Color Rush Jersey ,” McPhee said. ”We haven’t really looked at the season in its totality before it started, or the playoffs in its totality.”
The formula for the Knights has been as simple as it has been effective. With some top talent there for the taking in the expansion draft the Knights combined a fast, swarming attack with stellar work of Fleury to win their division.
Nothing changed in the opening game against the Sharks except the goals came early and often.
”We play fast, we play quick, we play direct hockey,” Gallant said. ”So far it’s worked for us.”
The Knights have done all of that, and more to move into the serious conversation about what teams can win the Stanley Cup.
If any more proof was needed, even the bookies are believers now.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or Luka Doncic is about to become an NBA player, though he’s unlike the other top prospects who will be drafted.
He’s already a pro. He’s already a champion.
And he might just be the most accomplished and intriguing player in this class.
After capping his brilliant stay in Spain with another title, the Slovenian guard heads the list of international players expected to be selected Thursday, a teenager whose resume is already more complete than even some of the most season veterans.
”He may be the most accomplished European teenager to ever come into the draft,” ESPN draft analyst Jay Bilas said. ”You know, there’s very little that is unknown about him. He’s not some workout wonder that people are projecting. He’s accomplished things Baker Mayfield Color Rush Jersey , and he has been seen in 5-on-5 against high-level competition for a number of years. He’s played professional basketball since he was 13.”
Doncic couldn’t join Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III and the other headliners in New York on Wednesday because he was en route from Spain after finishing off his dream season by helping Real Madrid win its ACB league championship Tuesday. The 6-foot-7 guard made a 3-pointer off one leg with the shot clock running down and Real Madrid clinging to a three-point lead, and his team held on to win the series in four games and allow him to get to Barclays Center in time for Thursday’s festivities, rather than stay behind for a Game 5.
He had already been the MVP of both the Euroleague season and its Final Four, the youngest player ever to win both honors, as Real Madrid won that title as well.
”I’m speechless,” he told the team’s website after Tuesday’s victory. ”It has been the season of my life. It’s incredible.”
The Phoenix Suns have the No. 1 pick and are widely expected to draft Arizona center Deandre Ayton, even though new coach Igor Kokoskov coached Doncic last summer on the Slovenian national team that won the nation’s first EuroBasket gold medal.
Then it’s Sacramento, Atlanta, Memphis and Dallas, and any of them could consider a player who’s only 19 but has been playing against some of the toughest competition outside the NBA for years. And while there may always be some skepticism of European players because Darko Milicic bombed so badly after being taken right behind LeBron James and ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade 15 years ago, it would be a surprise if Doncic failed after all he’s already done.
”He should easily transition to the league really well http://www.vikingsauthorizedshops.com/a ... ill-jersey ,” Miami guard Lonnie Walker IV said. ”I mean, look at what he’s doing in the Euroleague. You’ve got to respect what he’s doing. You can’t say he’s not good and he’s the MVP and everything of that spot. So pay respect where it’s due. He’s a great player. All you can say is tell him to continue to work hard and prove everyone that’s doubting him wrong.”
Even with Ayton, a native of the Bahamas, and Doncic at the top of the list of international candidates, the strength of this draft is at the college level. Power programs such as Duke (Bagley and Wendell Carter Jr.), Michigan State (Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges), national champion Villanova (Mikal Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo) and Kentucky (Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) could have multiple players taken in the top 10-15 selections of the two-round draft, and teams looking for point guards could choose between freshmen Trae Young of Oklahoma and Collin Sexton of Alabama.
They could give the NBA a second straight strong rookie class, after Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, Boston’s Jayson Tatum and 2016 No. 1 pick Ben Simmons of Philadelphia all helped their teams advance to at least the second round of the postseason.
”I think it’s a transformational class,” Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. said. ”I think we’ve got a lot of different kinds of players: Deandre, Marvin, the big dudes who are special Cassius Marsh Color Rush Jersey , and then me along with a couple other wings who can do a lot of different things, and then point guard, Trae, Collin Sexton, and then I heard that Luka dude – I ain’t seen much on him but I heard he’s special, too. So I think we’re a great draft, one of the best in a while.”