The Vegas Golden Knights have had a fascinating journey in the National Hockey League since their inception in 2017. Initially embraced as loveable underdogs who brought hope and unity to a city reeling from tragedy, they defied expectations by reaching the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season.

However, their reputation has shifted in recent years as they've become known for their aggressive approach to player personnel and savvy manipulation of the salary cap, earning them a reputation as one of the league's more polarizing franchises.

They enter the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs as the reigning champions, having captured hockey's ultimate prize last spring with a five-game series victory that ended the Cinderella run of the Florida Panthers. This recent season contained plenty of inconsistency in Sin City, however.

Their streaky play combined with injuries to key players like Jack Eichel, Mark Stone and William Carrier resulted in the Golden Knights not clinching the postseason until very late in the regular season schedule.

The Golden Knights have questions between the pipes

The Golden Knights are set to face a familiar opponent in the first round of the playoffs, as they square off against the Central Division-winning Dallas Stars. The Stars will be seeking revenge after being eliminated by the Golden Knights in the Western Conference Final last year.

This time, however, the Stars will enjoy home-ice advantage.

After rolling with the trio of Adin Hill, Logan Thompson, and Laurent Brossoit between the pipes last season, the Golden Knights allowed Brossoit to depart via free agency over the summer. Meanwhile, Hill was re-signed to a new contract, and split duties in net with Thompson.

But Hill's play of late left plenty to be desired. In the 34 games he appeared in, he amassed a record of 19-12-2 with a 2.71 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage. But in his last 20 games played, he earned wins in just nine of them. That's something that Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy knows that they can't ignore as they begin their Stanley Cup defense, via Mark Anderson of the AP.

“His numbers aren’t as good the last ‘x’ amount of games than they were at the start,” Cassidy said. “We can’t hide from that. But his game doesn’t look bad right now. Pucks are finding their way in, whether it’s through some holes or some bounces or whatever. So he just has to stick with it mentally and get through those challenges because we know what he’s capable of.”

Meanwhile, Thompson posted respectable numbers in 46 games (42 starts), going 25-14-5 with a 2.70 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage. He's enjoyed strong play of late, posting a save percentage of .929 over his last 11 starts. But would that continue into the playoffs should he get the nod?

According to Cassidy, the mindset of the sophomore goaltender heading into the postseason is positive.

“I think (Thompson’s) mindset is good going into the playoffs,” Cassidy said. “He hasn’t played playoff hockey, so that’s another animal. So to say, ‘OK, Logan, you’re going to be the guy,’ (but) he’s never played, is that fair to him, especially after what Hilly did last year?

“If we just give it to Hilly and say, ‘OK, have at it,’ well, Logan’s played pretty well recently and played more because he’s been healthier. So is that the right way to go? You probably in some way, shape or form will see both guys. That’s not because of poor play, either. That just might be the best way to go for where they’re both at right now and how their seasons have gone.”

The series will begin in Dallas

Going against one of the best-balanced offensive attacks in the Stars will prove to be problematic for the Vegas goaltending tandem of Hill and Thompson, and it remains to be seen who will be getting the start in Game 1.

There is still time for that decision to be made, as the series doesn't begin until Monday night from American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas. Last year, the Golden Knights prevailed in six games. Can the Stars exact revenge?