The past two games for the Vegas Golden Knights have been quite uncharacteristic. Losing in both contests, one being a shutout, the boys from Vegas just haven’t looked like themselves the past two games against their division rival, the Minnesota Wild.
If you haven’t read one of my takeaway posts already, this is about the time where I mention how we are going to dive right in and analyze three key takeaways from this series. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s hop right in and see what went wrong for the Golden Knights.
Throughout both contests, one thought was penetrating my mind the entire time, “wow they look tired.” And if they were, I can’t say that I blame them. The Golden Knights have a compact March schedule which sees them playing 17 games in 31 days. I’m going to repeat that in case it flew over your head; 17 GAMES IN 31 DAYS! That is a lot of hockey to be played in one month.
This may be the reason why they looked so out of it the past two games. They were slow to move their feet, were soft in the corners when trying to win puck battles, and the Wild had a very easy time beating their defensemen on the outside. The lethargy was quite evident in their defensive zone, as in most cases, the Wild looked like they were having their way with the Knights. They were firing on all cylinders, and it could have been very worse if the Knights didn’t have their secret weapon. “What’s their secret weapon?” you may be asking, well let’s hop right into takeaway number two to show you.
Now, losses aside, both games could have gotten out of hand if it wasn’t for the goaltending of Vezina candidate Marc-André Fleury. The amount of quality scoring chances Fleury was being peppered with was absolutely insane. It’s a miracle he was able to only let in four goals last night. If the Golden Knights had a league-average goalie in net, they probably would have allowed seven or eight goals on the Vezina candidate.
Fleury also played extremely well in the first game of the series, stopping 20 of 21 shots and posting a .952 save percentage. The Vegas faithful are extremely lucky their team has a high-caliber goalie such a Fleury. The Sorel, Quebec native, has dazzled with his play this year, easily stealing some games as well. If it weren’t for him, we may have been talking about a very different Golden Knights team right about this point in the season.
Now, aside from Fleury, another goalie played in series versus the Wild. That man would be Logan Thompson, who was called up from the Henderson Silver Knights on March 10. Thompson probably wasn’t expecting to see any ice time, but that is exactly what he got, playing a combined 8:15 on March 10th and saving both shot attempts he faced. The young goalie from Calgary has momentum on his side, as he is currently sporting a 1.000 SV%. We know this will be a great confidence boost for him when he eventually sees his first start in the NHL, and we wish him all the very best when that does happen.
On Wednesday night, Golden Knights rookie Dylan Coghlan entered the game with 16 games played and zero goals to his name. At the end of the game on Wednesday, not only had he notched his first career goal but his first NHL hat-trick as well. The undrafted free agent out of Duncan, BC, lit the lamp thrice on Wednesday night, becoming the first Golden Knights’ rookie to record a hat-trick, as well as the club’s first defenseman to record one.
Coghlan also became the third defenseman in NHL history to score his first three career goals in the same game, impressive! With Pietrangelo out for “the foreseeable future”, as fellow THW writer Ben Fisher mentioned to me, “If Coghlan can score three for us every night, Pietrangelo out won’t be as bad”. I absolutely agree with this, and hopefully, the young defenseman is reading this.
Onto the Next
The next Vegas outing will be a contest against the St. Louis Blues on Friday night. The Blues sit second in the West Division standings and one point back of the Golden Knights. What makes the next two games important for the Golden Knights is that they are essentially jostling with the team trying to take their spot. A tough task up ahead, I’m sure the boys in Gold and Silver are up to the challenge.