Ever since their inception in the 2017-18 season, no other NHL team has been as exciting to watch as the Vegas Golden Knights. Four separate articles would need to be written in order to fully explain all they have accomplished as an NHL franchise in just four full seasons. That’s how much success this club has seen during their time in the league.
This season, though, things are different, and not in a good way necessarily. For the first time in a long time, the Golden Knights are playing with their backs against the wall as they struggle to climb up the Pacific Division standings. With only four wins in their first nine games, fans have been left dumbfounded as they watch their team struggle night-in and night-out.
What could it be that has this team, which was supposed to be one of the very best, to be against the ropes and reeling for a sliver of a playoff berth? The first thing that comes to many a mind is the injuries the Golden Knights have incurred so far, and it is reasonable to believe that. When you’re playing without line-up stalwarts Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Alex Tuch, William Karlsson, and Zach Whitecloud, things are liable to go wrong.
Some may also point to the fact that Robin Lehner has performed poorly this season, a season in which he was supposed to shine as the un-contested number one goaltender in Sin City. This point also has no reason for debate, as Lehner has struggled as the number one this season, going 3-5 in his seven games started. He’s also sporting a 3.13 goals-against average, as well as a .906 save percentage.
It would be very easy to blame the Golden Knights’ mediocre season so far on these occurrences, but I don’t buy it. Obviously, injuries and a struggling goalie don’t help in any case, but I believe it all can be corrected with a little bit of channeling.
What is channeling, you may be asking? As per the Oxford dictionary, channeling is the “action of directing feelings or ideas towards a particular purpose or thing.” What does this have to do with the Golden Knights not performing on the ice? Well, the reality is the team has enjoyed the luxury of being a top-contender the past few seasons. With this came a shift in their mindset. They no longer relied on their “underdog” energy from their inaugural season, as they now had the energy of being the best instilled in their mind.
What I’m seeing from them this season is that they still have that top-contender mindset, when they really aren’t. Sometimes all you need is a shift of mindset to get things back on track. The Golden Knights got comfortable, but now it’s time to shake things up. They must channel the “Misfits” energy they had in their inaugural season, the same energy that carried them all to the Stanley Cup Final that season.
The paragraph above shouldn’t be misconstrued as me saying that they will reach the Stanley Cup Final if they do this, but it could probably save their season and get them to the playoffs. The only catch is that everybody needs to be on board. That’s what made the inaugural roster so amazing, that everybody was all in, playing united by one end goal. Plain and simple, the Golden Knights haven’t been playing like that, even though they house one of the best lineups in the NHL (without injuries).
A current example is the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have one of the deadliest lineups in the NHL on paper. But when it comes to crunch time, they can’t get it done. You can tell by watching them in the playoffs that they aren’t united by an end goal.
In order for the Golden Knights to get back on track, they must go back to the basics, join together as a team and take it one game at a time. There’s no doubt that they have the depth to move up the standings, but as I said, everyone has to be on their best game. The injuries will subside, and this period of uncertainty and strife will only make the team stronger. Fans shouldn’t count this team out yet, as there are still 74 games left to go. Remember, an NHL season is a marathon, not a race.
How do you feel about the Golden Knights this season? Let us 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.