The Vegas Golden Knights’ record-breaking inaugural season in the National Hockey League can be traced to a rather simple formula.
Hard work, chemistry and a team-first attitude.
“We have terrific guys,” said Mike Kelly, an assistant coach on Gerard (Turk) Gallant’s coaching staff. “Everybody came in with a little something to prove.
“When you match that with the fact we have a lot of good people in our room, guys feed off each other.”
The Golden Knights went 51-24-7 (won-lost-overtime losses) in the regular season. That was good enough for a first-place finish in the Pacific Division, third overall in the Western Conference and earned home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Los Angeles Kings. The Golden Knights, after a 1-0 win in Game 1 on Wednesday night, hosted Game 2 in the best-of-seven series Friday night.
“It’s been fantastic,” said Kelly, 58. “As I’ve said earlier, we have such a real good group of players, and we have a real good chemistry on the coaching staff, it’s been so much fun.
“The community has been fantastic. It’s a beautiful place to live, there’s nothing not to like about it and we just want to keep it going as long as we can.”
“We have terrific guys. Everybody came in with a little something to prove. When you match that with the fact we have a lot of good people in our room, guys feed off each other.”
Kelly, who grew up in Shamrock, P.E.I., graduated from Kinkora Regional High School and spends his off-seasons in Cornwall, P.E.I., previously worked as an NHL assistant coach with the Vancouver Canucks from 2006 to 2008 and the Gallant-coached Florida Panthers from 2014 to 2016.
With the Golden Knights, Kelly and fellow assistant coach Ryan McGill focus on the penalty kill. However, Kelly emphasized it is a team-first approach with the coaching staff as well.
“Everybody on this staff shares everything, from five-on-five play to maybe one side of special teams,” explained Kelly. “If we want a little bit more input from (assistant coach) Ryan Craig or Turk, we just ask. There’s a terrific chemistry on the staff.”
Kelly, who spent four seasons with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as head coach, associate head coach, director of hockey operations and general manager, said the Golden Knights have not taken a lot of time to reflect on their achievements so far.
“We’ve tried to stay focused on the next game, and that’s been our mantra all year,” said Kelly, who was head coach of the 1998 Canadian university men’s hockey-champion UNB Varsity Reds. “I do think after we do have a chance to reflect on it, and obviously the longer it goes, the more special it will become.
“We don’t really think about it a lot, we just move on and stay in the moment.”
Vegas NHL team honours shooting victims
The Canadian Press
LAS VEGAS – On the night the Vegas Golden Knights clinched the NHL's Pacific Division title, the expansion team retired the No. 58 jersey and raised a banner with the names of the 58 killed in the Oct. 1 concert shooting on the Las Vegas Strip.
In a pregame ceremony March 31, the black-and-gold “VEGAS STRONG” banner was lifted to the rafters at T-Mobile Arena following a video tribute.
Several Golden Knights’ players called the ceremony emotional, powerful and beautiful.
Vegas forward Alex Tuch says he believes the team drew inspiration from the ceremony as they went on to beat the San Jose Sharks 3-2 and record the 50th win of their inaugural season.
Hundreds of others were injured when a lone gunman carried out the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.