In this edition of Vegas Golden Knights News & Rumors, George McPhee, the president of hockey operations, had some interesting comments on what it takes to build a great team on the Alz Caps podcast. Meanwhile, general manager Kelly McCrimmon recently spoke to The Athletic about his team’s resiliency this season. Last but not least, Robin Lehner had a scary incident in a game against the Washington Capitals earlier this week due to a heavy shot from Alexander Ovechkin.
McPhee Describes How to Build an Elite Team
Immediately after the 2017 Golden Knights expansion draft, many were quick to criticize McPhee due to his selections, as they believed better players were available and the team was going to struggle. As we now know, McPhee clearly knew what he was doing, as this team has been a powerhouse since day one, proven by the fact they went to the Stanley Cup Final in their very first season.
Recently, McPhee appeared on the Alz Caps podcast, hosted by former NHL defenceman Karl Alzner. He had many interesting quotes, including what is most important when building a championship-caliber team.
“You’ve seen it with the (Capitals), and you see it with our team and other teams that have a lot of injuries this year,” McPhee said. “You can lose some forwards and hang in there. You start losing defensemen, and you’re in trouble.
“Positionally, the most important position gained is in net. So I’d like to get a goalie or two and a quarterback. A quarterback that’s a defenseman.”
These comments make sense when viewing the Golden Knights team, as they had a great goaltending duo recently in Marc-Andre Fleury and Lehner, though they were forced to trade Fleury due to salary cap management. They also have a tremendous blueline with players like Shea Theodore and Alec Martinez and their big free-agent acquisition in 2020 in Alex Pietrangelo.
McCrimmon Proud of Golden Knights Resiliency
Despite battling a ton of injuries this season, the Golden Knights still rank number one in the Pacific Division. It speaks to the great depth on their roster and how hard they have battled this season, something McCrimmon is very pleased with. (from ‘Pierre LeBrun: Golden Knights’ GM Kelly McCrimmon on Jack Eichel’s return, getting healthy and the deadline,’ The Athletic, 01/24/22).
“I give the players a lot of credit, the coaches a lot of credit, we’ve been able to cobble together a record that’s kept us in contention,” McCrimmon said to The Athletic.
“Our depth has been really important for us,” he continued. “The benefits of having our American League team in Henderson has been really important.”
To give an idea of just how banged up this team has been this season, Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Martinez, Nolan Patrick, and William Karlsson have missed a combined 121 games. They have had plenty of players step up in their absence, which is why they have continued to be a solid team in 2021-22. Once they get fully healthy, including adding Jack Eichel into their lineup, they will be considered one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup this year.
Lehner’s Mask Damaged by Ovechkin Blast
Monday night’s win over the Capitals was a great one for Lehner, who recorded his first shutout of the season in a 1-0 victory. However, it didn’t come without its scares, as an Ovechkin shot in the second period damaged his mask to the point he needed to put on a new one.
“Ovechkin broke my helmet, so I had to change it,” Lehner said postgame. “It was probably the hardest shot I’ve taken to the head. He broke my cage—a little scary. You felt the cage kind of bent into the cheekbone a little bit. I’m lucky it wasn’t a bit harder.”
Ovechkin, 36, has made a living terrorizing goalies with his lethal shot and is continuing to do so this season with 29 goals and 58 points in 44 games. On Monday, however, he could not solve Lehner, who was thankfully okay despite the damage done to his mask.
Up Next for the Golden Knights
Through the Golden Knights’ first three games of their four-game road trip, they have picked up three points. That is nothing to marvel over but is respectable because they have faced the Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, and the Florida Panthers. The final game of their road trip will take place on Saturday against another very difficult opponent in the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.