Coming off of a 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Dec. 11, the Vegas Golden Knights improved their record to 21-9-1 after defeating the Winnipeg Jets 6-5 in what was an exciting back-and-forth effort throughout the entire 60 minutes of play.
The Golden Knights came into Winnipeg following a disappointing three-game homestand where they scored just three goals in regulation time and managed to put up five against one of the hottest teams and goaltenders in the NHL in Connor Hellebuyck.
Hellebuyck is tied for second in wins in the NHL with 14 and ranks third among starting goaltenders with a .930 save percentage (SV%). The Jets started off the year with just two wins through their first five games and have put together a 16-5-1 since then, and he’s been the main focal point of their recent success.
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The Golden Knights are continuing to deal with a number of detrimental injuries as head coach Bruce Cassidy announced earlier in the day that Jack Eichel had been listed as day-to-day, Shea Theodore as week-to-week, and Zach Whitecloud as month-to-month, along with Alex Pietrangelo who continues to remain out of the lineup due to personal reasons.
The Golden Knights have now picked up 27 of a possible 32 points on the road this season, making their 13-2-1 record away from home the best in the NHL.
Adin Hill started for the Golden Knights after winning both of his previous starts where he allowed just one goal in each game, and also won both contests against the Jets earlier this season. After this win, Hill’s record is now 8-2-0 this season, and is currently sitting at a .907 SV%.
Miromanov Sparks Golden Knights’ Power Play
Daniil Miromanov scored his first career NHL goal to tie the game 1-1 halfway through the first period following some incredible skill and patience from Reilly Smith to find him open at the blue line.
Congratulations, Miro!!! 🥲👏 pic.twitter.com/nxspauQpbf— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 14, 2022
The 25-year-old defenseman was called up from the American Hockey League (AHL)’s Henderson Silver Knights earlier this month and had three points in this game, with both of his assists coming on the power play. Miromanov currently leads Silver Knights defensemen in scoring with 13 points through 17 games and has become more confident with the puck through his six games with the Golden Knights this season. His willingness to shoot makes him tough to defend while also being such a dangerous passing threat, and his movement along the blue line is becoming harder for defenders to anticipate.
With both Shea Theodore and Pietrangelo out, Miromanov seems to be the best option to quarterback the primary power play unit moving forward, and could make a strong case to be a permanent fit on the second unit with the amount of time and opportunities he’ll have in the coming weeks.
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With so many key players out of the lineup, the Golden Knights simplified their offensive strategy in order to play to their strengths as a unit. Forechecking, crowding the opposing crease, and battling behind the net isn’t always the prettiest way to play, but it can sometimes be the best option when some of your most creative offensive players are out of the lineup.
While this style of play kept them in most of the game, it took some star power from the likes of Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone to seal the deal for the Golden Knights, with both players putting up two goals including the go-ahead goal from Marchessault with under two minutes left in the third period.
Marchessault has been red-hot offensively this season, surpassing Eichel in this game for the team lead in goals with 14, and picking up his fifth and sixth goals on the power play, surpassing his total from last season. After having his four-game goal streak snapped against the Boston Bruins, Marchessault was able to get right back on track and show why he’s such a game-breaking offensive player for the Golden Knights.
Captain Stone also picked up his 500th career NHL point on his second goal of the game in his hometown of Winnipeg. He scored the lone goal in their loss to Boston and carried over his offense in this game, but it was his impact in the defensive zone that stood out the most. By picking off passes, committing to defensive coverages, and stopping a lot of rush chances by the Jets, he was a huge reason why they were able to remain competitive in this game.
With so much emphasis on the missing pieces on defense, the forwards took it upon themselves to ease the tension that they faced by outscoring their issues in the defensive zone. While it’s not the ideal way that the Golden Knights want to be playing, knowing that they can keep up in these high-scoring games is a huge positive even with some of their big-name players out of the lineup.
With Eichel being placed on the injured reserve earlier this week, he is forced to sit out a minimum of seven days before playing again. This means that the Golden Knights will be without their star center for at least the next three games, and will need to build on this offensive performance in order to remain competitive during this difficult time frame.
The Golden Knights will finish off their short road trip as they head out to Chicago to take on the Blackhawks on Thursday, who currently sit last in the Central Division with a 7-16-4 record.
Eric is a recent graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University’s Sport Media Program and is covering the Vegas Golden Knights with the Hockey Writers