Championships aren’t won in February but they can be lost and the Vegas Golden Knights face a defining stretch of games over the next week.
We’ve covered in-depth how hard this month was going to be for the Vegas Golden Knights, who have the ninth toughest remaining schedule in the NHL.
But, after failing to correct their ways, the next chunk of games really could be make or break for the Golden Knights.
And, one thing is for sure, we will really know what this team is all about and the direction they are heading in by the end of next week.
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This next block of games, which starts tonight against the reigning Stanley Cup champions the St. Louis Blues, could be make or break.
After the Blues, the Golden Knights will take on the New York Islanders, the Washington Capitals, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers.
The Islanders are third in the Metro and have the sixth best defense in the NHL (2.71), while the Capitals are one of the best teams in hockey and they have a Hart Trophy candidate in John Carlson, in addition to Alex Ovechkin who is on a one-man mission to hunt down Wayne Gretzky‘s all-time scoring record.
It doesn’t get any easier after that.
The Knights will then take on the surging Tampa Bay Lightning who have finally found their groove, having won 20 of their past 23 games.
Then, to conclude a hellish slate, Vegas will then face a desperate hockey team in the Florida Panthers who are fighting for a playoff spot.
Granted, all five games will be at T-Mobile Arena which will help, but the Knights have hardly been stellar on home ice with a 14-10-4 record.
Furthermore, all five teams are above the Knights in the standings and they are 2-3-1 against those opponents this year.
And, to make matters worse, those five teams have a combined points percentage of .655, while the rest of the contenders in the Pacific face easier schedules over the next week.
Plus, after the Vancouver Canucks shut out the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday, the Knights are now five points back off first place.
So, in other words, there is little room for error.
That’s why this five-game stretch has now taken on even more importance for the Vegas Golden Knights.
While they will be far from dead and buried if they endure a nightmare run of results in those five games, it will be tough to haul themselves off the canvas especially if those around them pick up wins.
There are already doubts over whether the Knights can make the postseason, especially after witnessing the debacle in the Twin Cities on Tuesday.
In that ugly blowout loss to the Minnesota Wild, the Golden Knights lacked fight, they lacked hustle and they were just out-battled.
It was a hugely concerning outing and if Vegas approach the next five games in the same manner they did the Wild contest, they will be absolutely smoked in all five games.
Again, while all hope won’t be lost, if the Knights do emerge from this five-game stretch with little to show for their efforts, then it puts the pressure on this team and coaching staff even more down the stretch.
However, if they were to finally figure things out and carve out some statement wins, then that will set the tone for down the stretch.
Either way, these next five games will have a huge impact on the regular season and the Vegas Golden Knights’ hopes of embarking on a deep postseason run.