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Mitch Moss: Are The Golden Knights For Real?

 (AP Photo/John Locher)
(AP Photo/John Locher)

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland, left, celebrates after scoring against the Arizona Coyotes during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, in Las Vegas.

We usually expect expansion teams in any sport to be a little less than great their first year in operation.

But, the Vegas Golden Knights have defied expectations.

They're the only team in NHL history to win six of their first seven games on the ice.

What's behind their run of form?

And -- maybe most importantly -- can they keep it up?


Are the Vegas Golden Knights for real? Are they that good?

What's not to like? It's only seven games in, so it's a small sample size. Good can be a relative term. How good are we talking -- to make a run at the Stanley Cup? Let's not get nuts, but to be competitive night in and night out?

The problem is the injuries at goalie: at some point that would almost have to haunt them if they can't get healthy at all. So, enjoy it while it lasts if you can, but for an expansion team, it's the best start of all time.

Nobody ever anticipates this type of thing in any sports when a team is brand new but it also hasn't really been a fluke so far -- they've been good in these games.

They seem to play faster on the ice than other teams:

I think that overall, they're a pretty fast team for this stage. I think that goes obviously to the game plan and how they constructed the team with George McPhee.

I don't know if they're faster than other teams. I haven't noticed that with my eye.

Are the playoffs out of the realm of possibility for them?

I think it is way too early to look at them and say, 'Yeah.' I get it -- they're 6-1. They're off to this tremendous start. Right now, things are looking good to say that they're a playoff team. But let's say they're 10-3 in a couple of weeks, or 15-6, then at that point I think you have to start saying to yourself, 'Maybe this team could somehow sneak into the playoffs.' Things have been looking very, very good to begin things. But right now, it's a little too early -- but in a couple of weeks that could easily change.

If they start to slide, could we see that home-ice advantage start to wane a little bit?

I think the crowds are definitely going to be there for the first couple of years.

But another thing to consider, when you've watched some of the home games so far -- the Red Wings, the Bruins -- a lot of fans from the opposing team were there, so it's not like an overwhelming edge anyway.

I know they lost the one game to the Red Wings. We're going to see that again this week they take on the Blackhawks. The T-Mobile [Arena] is going to be [split] 50-50 at least -- probably more. The Chicago Blackhawk fans will completely take over that place.

They're facing that right now in the early stages here. I know it's year one.

I think it's a combination of a couple of things. First of all, the fan bases of those cities are probably flying to Las Vegas to go to the games -- at least a small percentage. Also, with how many people relocate to Las Vegas and they're not from here -- people are from different pockets of the country, all over the place. You're going to have Red Wings fans and Blackhawks fans and they live in Las Vegas.

Also, I think, that people who bought season tickets did it as a money-making opportunity. They live here in Las Vegas and they're selling the games early on here to make money on it. So, I think it's a combination of a few things.

UNLV lost to Utah State and they lost quarterback Armani Rogers in that game. If he's out against Fresno State this weekend, does UNLV have any chance of winning?

No. I don't think they would have a chance of winning against Fresno State with him, anyway.

The story of this team as always has been the defense. It's absolutely as bad as it gets. Once again, it is one of the worst defensive teams in the entire country. We saw that with Utah State. Utah State is completely average on offense and they did whatever they wanted.

And by the way, UNLV led that game -- I think it was -- three different times in the first half by at least 14 points and it never mattered. And I know Rogers got hurt at that point, but they can't stop Bishop Gorman right now -- the high school team here in Las Vegas. And Fresno State, right now Jeff Tedford -- I don't know if he's going to get consideration for coach of the year nationally -- but he absolutely should be in the conversation.

They have five wins already on the year. That is more than that program had over the last two years. Their only two losses are to Alabama and Washington. They went on the road last week and dominated San Diego State.

UNLV was favored this last weekend. They got blown out in the second half. It's a terrible program. Rinse and repeat here. We've been able to say this about team almost every single year now for the last almost 20 years. Maybe more. What you see is what you get. I don't even know what a strength of this team is right now.

UNR stayed competitive against Air Force. They lost to them by a field goal, but you look at the rest of their schedule, are any of those games winnable?

Two of them are winnable. You look at Nevada, at least you could walk away from some of these games saying, 'You know what, at least there's some hope here.' Offensively, they scored a ton of points. They've had a couple of losses that are going to hurt, but over the last two games, they're in entertaining games that were very watchable. There is no shame in losing to Colorado State 44-42. Colorado State is a good program and then against Air Force. Look at Navy -- Navy is a really good program they couldn't stop Air Force, neither could Nevada.

They go down and they score 42 points in consecutive weeks and they lose and that's gotta hurt, but they're actually showing some signs here down the stretch.

San José State at home is absolutely winnable. Put it this way: they own UNLV in this series. They get them at home coming up on Thanksgiving weekend. I can't imagine UNLV going there and winning. Tony Sanchez has one win -- two years ago -- to get the cannon back here to Southern Nevada, but they're in a better spot right now than UNLV is.

Spend Mitch's Money

Ohio State (-6.5) vs. Penn State: I will go with Ohio State at home against Penn State. They're off of a bye. They're lying 6 points now against Penn State. I know Penn State was awesome again on Saturday night. They're probably one of the best teams in the country -- that was a revenge game for them against Michigan. And now, they only have one week to prepare for the Buckeyes, and the Buckeyes have total revenge in mind from last year. I think Ohio State is one of the most talented teams in the entire country and I think that they'll cover the six points.

Mitch Moss, VSIN

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)