The Vegas Golden Knights earned their 23rd win of the season in dominant fashion after defeating the Arizona Coyotes 5-2. With the victory, they broke a three-game losing streak at home and surpassed the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes in the standings, giving them the second-best record in the NHL.
The Golden Knights came into this game losing their previous two matchups against the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Islanders, bringing their home record to 8-9-0 on the season, ranking 22nd in the NHL in their own building.
One of the main reasons the Golden Knights have struggled at home this season is due to their lack of scoring. In their last seven games at T-Mobile arena, they’ve scored just four goals at even strength and had a minus-8 goal differential heading into this game.
Their exceptional play on the road has offset these struggles, but the Golden Knights will need to take advantage of their home opportunities in the new year to better prepare for the playoffs, where home games can play a pivotal role in generating momentum and confidence.
The Coyotes have played slightly above expectations so far with a 10-15-5 record to start the season, largely due to the play of defenseman Jakob Chychrun. He’s been a major bright spot on a weak Coyotes roster since returning from wrist surgery, putting up 13 points in 14 games, causing the trade rumors that started earlier last season to heat up again.
Chychrun has made a name for himself as one of the best young defensemen in the NHL and carries a $4.6 million salary until his contract expires in 2025, making him one of the most attractive trade targets this season. While the Golden Knights have a plethora of high-end defensemen filling out their roster, the track record for this team has shown that nobody should be surprised if they try to make an offer before the trade deadline approaches.
Michael Amadio Joins Golden Knights’ First Line
With Jack Eichel, Paul Cotter, and Brett Howden out of the lineup, the forward group got a new look in this game as Michael Amadio was promoted to the top unit alongside Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone.
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Amadio has put up just four points in his 21 games played this season, but with the ‘Misfits’ line of Marchessault, Karlsson and Smith playing as well as they have together, head coach Bruce Cassidy is continuing to turn to his depth players to try and spark some offense from his top players.
Amadio provides a level of physicality and willingness to forecheck that gives Stone and Stephenson an opportunity to utilize their speed and skill to find open ice in the offensive zone. There have been some instances in Eichel’s absence where Stephenson has looked out of place as a center, particularly in his offensive zone positioning, but Amadio’s hard-nosed style of play was able to complement their skillset and tendencies a lot better.
After pulling ahead later in the third period, Amadio was sent down alongside Smith and Karlsson, which was a decision that can be assumed to be some experimenting from Cassidy to prepare for further games. He managed to score on a great deflection off a point shot from Nicolas Hague to give the Golden Knights a 5-2 lead.
Golden Knights’ Power Kill
One of the biggest highlights from this game was the Golden Knights’ special teams. With Alex Pietrangelo slotting back into the top power play unit over the past few days, the puck movement looked a lot smoother as they were able to sustain a lot more pressure in the offensive zone in comparison to previous games. However, some of the most dominant points in the game came on the penalty kill.
Mark Stone’s 4-2 goal that came just moments after the Coyotes cut the Golden Knights’ lead to one was his second of the game, and the sixth shorthanded goal for the team this season, tying the Minnesota Wild for the most in the NHL. What made this penalty kill even more impressive was the fact that the Coyotes weren’t able to manufacture a shot on goal.
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Stone has developed a reputation as one of the best two-way players in the NHL and his performance on the penalty kill in this game reinforced that title. His ability to pick off passes and create transition offense quickly was on full display, and his efforts have rubbed off on his teammates. To cap off a memorable night for the captain, he also became the first player in franchise history to score a power play goal and a shorthanded goal in the same game.
The defensive structure that was a major factor in the Golden Knights’ hot start to the season was back in full form, limiting dangerous chances and pushing the puck carriers to the boards. A lot of the shots given up were from farther out in the zone and there was not a lot of desperation needed from goaltender Logan Thompson.
While there shouldn’t be much to read into when it comes to beating a team on the opposite side of the standings, the ability to put up five goals in your own building after struggling for so long has to be a major psychological boost for the team.
After such an incredible start to the season the Golden Knights have trended downward in a lot of different areas, but so many of their issues are hard to evaluate without taking their recent injury troubles into account. Considering the fact that they will be getting a few days off very soon, there is a good chance we won’t be seeing any of the injured players return until at least after the break, and maybe not even until 2023.
The Golden Knights will have one more game at home before heading into the holiday break against the St. Louis Blues on Friday, Dec. 23, who are 4-1 in their last five games.
Eric is a recent graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University’s Sport Media Program and is covering the Vegas Golden Knights with the Hockey Writers