The Vegas Golden Knights are off to a franchise-best 4-0-0 start with a decisive 5-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes last night. The win was the most complete effort of the four wins to open the season for the Golden Knights. It featured the first goals of the season from the defense, with two from Shea Theodore, and scoring his first as a Vegas Golden Knight, Alex Pietrangelo. Also, the first power-play goal of the year by Alex Tuch and the first NHL point for Keegan Kolesar.
While banking eight out of a possible eight points is the best possible scenario to open the season for the Golden Knights, there remain questions that will need to be addressed as the competition gets much stiffer next week starting with the St. Louis Blues.
Follow along as I identify key questions for the Golden Knights as they head out on their first road trip of the year.
Salary Cap Gymnastics look to be an ongoing concern
At the beginning of the season, the Golden Knights had two major concerns, salary cap and depth at center. Four games into the season, those two problems have become intertwined.
In the first two games against Anaheim, the Golden Knights dressed 13 forwards and five defensemen, so that Cody Glass could add depth at center. The goal is to optimize the offensive potential of the third line. The problem was that the five defensemen all averaged over 21 minutes of ice time. Absolutely unsustainable over a condensed 56 game season.
In games 3 and 4 against Arizona, the Golden Knights dressed the more traditional 12 forwards, six defensemen. Here’s the rub. The odd forward out is the only Golden Knight eligible to be sent down without being claimed on waivers… you guessed it, Cody Glass. The Golden Knights first-ever draft pick who they are counting on to provide offense from the center position, on the third line.
Four games into the season it is already clear that salary cap gymnastics is going to be an ongoing daily game to game concern for the Vegas Golden Knights. The thing that concerns me most is the possibility of ever-changing lineups for coach Pete Deboer.
Turning on the line blender is one thing when you are not getting the performance out of the lineup during a game. Turning on the personnel blender game after game and not being able to ice a consistent lineup night after night cannot be a good thing for the Golden Knights.
The Goaltending has been great but…
Seven goals through the first four games. No complaints there. Both Robin Lehner and Marc Andre Fleury have been outstanding in their two starts for the Golden Knights. Both have made huge saves in key moments that have secured the Golden Knights’ first four victories of the 2021 season.
What could the but possibly be? Everything is going great in goal, right?
Pete DeBoer has repeatedly stated that to begin the season there will be a rotation in goal, and at some point, he will determine who the number one goalie is. In the meantime, the two legitimate number one goalies, arguably the best tandem in the NHL, won’t have a chance to get on a hot streak and carry the team.
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This sort of thing is hard to quantify, so instead, look at the examples of last year’s playoffs. Not being a homer here, but the Golden Knights were clearly the better team in the series against Vancouver and badly outplayed the Dallas Stars. If not for the play of Jacob Markstrom and Anton Khudobin, the Vancouver series would have been much shorter, and in the case vs. Dallas a different outcome.
With a goalie rotation, for however long it lasts, Robin Lehner and Marc Andre Fleury will be playing once every four days with the exception of back to backs. Not optimal for two world-class goaltenders who right now are both earning the lion’s share of playing time. Somethings gotta give, I wish I had a crystal ball. I have no guess.
Here’s one thing that is not a question, in fact, I’ll make a prediction!
As I am the new guy on this site, and I also live in Las Vegas, why not end my first article on Vegas Hockey Knight with a prediction? I like to gamble. Lots of you like to gamble, right?
Slow down, take it easy. I am not going to give you the Rookie Writer, the Vegas Golden Knights are going to win the Stanley Cup this year easy prediction. LOL
Instead, I am going to tell you that the Vegas Golden Knights penalty kill will finish in the top three in the NHL, and as a bonus will score (at least) four short-handed goals.
When the Golden Knights are short-handed, Coach Pete Deboer rolls pairs of William Karlsson & Reilly Smith, Mark Stone & Chandler Stevenson, Tomas Nosek & Nic Roy, and this year Alex Tuch will see time on the PK , along with Alex Pietrangelo.
The Golden Knights have one shorty so far and have missed on multiple breakaways while shorthanded. The relentless puck pursuit style implemented by Pete Deboer causes teams into turnovers which the Golden Knights turn into offensive chances in the blink of an eye.
That’s it for article number one. I hope you enjoy it.
Feel free to comment below.
See you all at the Greatest Stanley Cup Parade of all time on The Las Vegas Strip!