The last piece of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs conference finals came into place Thursday night, as the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Nashville Predators 5-1 to secure passage to the Western Conference Final.
2018 Western Conference Final Schedule
Game 1: Vegas at Winnipeg, May 12 at 7 p.m. ET (NBC)
Game 2: Vegas at Winnipeg, May 14 at 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 3: Winnipeg at Vegas, May 16 at 9 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 4: Winnipeg at Vegas, May 18 at 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 5: Vegas at Winnipeg, May 20 at 3 p.m. ET (NBC)
Game 6: Winnipeg at Vegas, May 22 at 9 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 7: Vegas at Winnipeg, May 24 at 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
To some extent, the Jets will have to overcome the sense the Golden Knights are a team of destiny.
The idea Vegas could advance this deep into the postseason was laughable on the night of the expansion draft:
However, winger Ryan Reaves explained how the Golden Knights players channeled that general attitude into a source of motivation.
"The whole roster is full of guys whose teams said 'We don't want you' or 'We want other players more,'" he said, per ESPN The Magazine's Emily Kaplan. "It's a bunch of guys who are hungry. And they all can play."
Vegas didn't get here on emotion alone. The Golden Knights collected the third-most points (109) in the Western Conference and finished the regular season with a plus-44 goal differential.
Marc-Andre Fleury has been excellent between the pipes as well. He's the playoff leader in goals-against average (1.53) and save percentage (.951).
As well as Fleury has played, Vegas will want to take some of the pressure off him in the Western Conference Final. He faced an average of nearly 36 shots per game in the second round, including 89 shots combined in Games 2 and 3—both of which went to overtime.
In that respect, the Jets aren't a favorable matchup for Vegas. Winnipeg was second in goals (3.33 per game) during the regular season, and that attack hasn't slowed down too much in the playoffs.
The Jets have been held scoreless on one occasion in 12 postseason games, and they are averaging 33.8 shots. A little more than 10 minutes into Game 7 on Thursday night, Winnipeg had two goals and knocked Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne out of the game.
Granted, CBS Sports' Pete Blackburn noted the Golden Knights were going to be at a disadvantage regardless of which team they would face in their conference final:
Vegas took two of three in their regular-season series against the Jets. The Golden Knights won 5-2 in November and claimed a 3-2 overtime victory in February, with Winnipeg dropping seven goals on Vegas in December.
The Golden Knights wrapped up their second-round series Sunday, so they should be more rested for Game 1 on Saturday. Taking away home-ice advantage in the opening game could be big for Vegas.