Aside from being a hockey fan, I am also an avid reader. Now, most of you reading this are probably thinking “Ok, cool, man. We don’t care.” If this was your reaction, I don’t blame you, but there is a method to my madness, or at least a reason why I told you I love to read so much. The reason is because of this great new book I just read titled” Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins.
Goggins is renowned in the fitness industry as a pioneer, known for his immense self-discipline, grit and his ability to run an ultra marathon on broken legs; I know, crazy. But the thing that stands out the most to me about this warrior of discipline and fitness is his ability to dig deep into his core in order to get things done, even when his body and mind are propelling him in the other direction. This exact characteristic was what the Vegas Golden Knights showcased in their series versus the St. Louis Blues, and it was the eventual catalyst.
Vegas had just come off a disappointing series against the Minnesota Wild, one that saw the Golden Knights lose two straight. Oftentimes in that series, the boys in gold and silver looked depleted and lifeless, lacking energy when it counted most. This, in part, is largely due to the extremely condensed March schedule the team has had to play, as they have a whopping 17 games scheduled in the 31-day month. Due to this, I was expecting much of the same results from the Wild series, but surprisingly, the opposite occurred. With so much to take away from these games, let’s hop right into it and take a look at the three main takeaways from the Golden Knights’ past two wins.
Guts and Glory
The Golden Knights played their tails off, relying on their grit and physical toughness to eek out a 5-4 overtime win against the Blues on Friday, and to dominate them even further on Saturday, as they trounced their rivals from Missouri 5-1. The Blues played extremely well, it’s just that the Golden Knights played better and wanted it more.
Their ability to win battles in the corner as well as their forecheck and backcheck proved to be the catalyst in this series. These things are by no means glorious, but they do need to be done, and when done right, they open up many opportunities on the offensive side.
The offence finally came alive in this series, putting up back-to-back five-goal games. Leading the pack was captain Mark Stone, who registered three goals in this series. Even more important, Stone became the Golden Knights’ player who required the fewest games (24) to reach the 30-point total, eclipsing Jonathan Marchessault’s previous record of 30 games played.
Other than Stone, the Golden Knights got big play from Max Pacioretty, who went off in this series. He exploded for four points in the series, solidifying his name in team lore, as well as maintaining a point-per-game basis on the season.
Another bright spot in this series was first-line center Chandler Stephenson, who is enjoying a great season, tallying 18 points in 25 games. Stephenson has really been making strides in his offensive game this season, and all his hard work has been paying off recently. He put up three crucial assists in the series versus the Blues, but what is more important is what Stephenson does off the scoresheet.
His ability to penetrate the opposing team’s blue line, and his vision and hockey IQ once in the opposing team’s zone, help open up the opposition’s defense, allowing linemates Stone and Pacioretty ample time to find an open spot. Having two superstar players flanking you is great, but Stephenson’s work should not be discredited. All in all, he is just one of the many bright spots from this thriving Vegas offense.
Defense Moving the Puck Beautifully
The Golden Knights’ defense has played beautifully these past two games. Big nights from Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez and Nic Hague have driven the team’s d-corps to spectacular results. Stats aside, the thing that most impresses me about this defensive lineup is their ability to move the puck and jump into the offence.
Theodore and Martinez have such great on-ice vision that breakouts seem flawless when they are orchestrating them. These easy breakouts help the offence counter-attack at a more efficient rate, which in turn, leads to more scoring opportunities. Their ability to find the open man and their ability to circulate in the offensive zone is also a big plus that only furthers Vegas’ potent scoring. If it wasn’t for the solid back end that Vegas management put together, we might be talking about the Golden Knights in a completely different way.
Fleury Can’t Be Beat
I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record but my god, Marc-André Fleury is just playing too ridiculous for words to describe at this moment. Hands down, the biggest driving force behind the Golden Knights’ successes this season, Fleury has been nothing short of a wall so far. In the series against the Blues, he further added credibility to his Vezina Trophy chase, playing absolutely lights out in both those games.
Fleury is registered top-5 in all important statistical goalie categories, those being goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts. Only time will tell if he is able to capture that most coveted Vezina Trophy, but he sure is making the case for it at the moment. Even if he doesn’t win, Fleury is putting on an absolute spectacle in goaltending and for that we thank him. Love you, Flower!
Notes & the Next
On a even happier note, Marchessault registered his 200th point as a Golden Knight on the weekend, a milestone much deserved. He has been amazing this season, and has been the most consistent player ever to don a gold and silver jersey. He doesn’t always get the recognition he deserves, but he is nonetheless one of the main heartbeats of the team.
Up next on the Golden Knights schedule is the always dangerous San Jose Sharks, who are looking to redeem themselves after being thumped earlier in the month by the Golden Knights. With a full slate of hockey on this week, we should be in for some exciting games.
What do you think the scores will be in the San Jose series? Let me know in the comments below!
Michael Vidakis is a Montreal native who writes for the Vegas Golden Knights team here at The Hockey Writers. In his spare time, he enjoys the finer things in life such as Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, staring aimlessly outside windows and tangerines.