Columnists, Sports

Dropping the Gloves: What the Vegas Golden Knights success really means

When the NHL season began, few thought that the new expansion team would be able to stand up to the rest of the league. The Vegas Golden Knights are 8-3, which on the outside seems like a good place to be in. But those wins are covering up their issues on and off the ice.

The Golden Knights are ranked second in the Pacific Division, but that’s arguably not the most important statistic. They might be at the top of the pack in the Western Conference, but they’re really closer to the bottom of the standings when it comes to actual game play.

Vegas is No 17 in power play and No. 21 in penalty kill. While these stats don’t necessarily reflect the outcome of the game, they do reflect how the team is playing throughout. If you can’t score on a power play and you’re struggling with penalty kills, that’s eventually going to catch up to the team in the form of losses.

They’ve already begun to fall a bit. Seven of the last 11 games were at home. Their current six game road trip was meant to be a way to show off what this team can do to other fans around the country, but they’ve already dropped their first two games against the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers.

After a stop in Boston today, the Golden Knights will head up to Canada.

People are now even betting huge bucks on Vegas winning the Stanley Cup. It’s premature to be betting on anyone for the title, especially for the Golden Knights.

Yes, they’re having success. But it won’t last. They’ve been able to hide under the façade of a new team, but they’ve got plenty of veterans on their lineup who have been playing in the NHL for years.

In fact, Vegas even has two Stanley Cup winners. Brayden McNabb and Marc-Andre Fleury have won cups in the last five years. These two know what it’s like to hoist that trophy, and it takes a certain type of player to be able to endure that long, hard postseason and come out victorious.

And while this may be the inaugural season for the Golden Knights, a few of their players are not new to skating with each other. Shea Theodore, Clayton Stoner, David Perron and William Karlsson all played for the Anaheim Ducks sometime between 2014 and 2017.

So they’re comfortable playing with each other. This comradery could be confused by playing well, but in reality they’re just already good at playing together having done so for a few seasons.

You also have to take into consideration that there was so much buzz around this team beginning its first season, and that could explain their success in the first few weeks of play. Now that the buzz has sort of faded, the team will start to look more like a hodgepodge of guys with varying levels of experience who have played all across the league.

Vegas is already starting to crack under the pressure. They’ve lost three goalies to the injured reserve. It’s a huge hit for the team, especially the loss of Marc-Andre Fleury. The former Pittsburgh Penguins goalie was supposed to be a staple on this team, and now he’s out a few games with a concussion. Last week, former Bruins prospect Malcolm Subban was placed on the injured reserve with a four-week timetable return with a lower-body injury.

And as if they needed another goalie injury, Oscar Dansk left the game on Monday against the New York Islanders in the second period with a lower body injury. He’ll reportedly only miss a little bit of action, but that’s plenty of time for Vegas to fall in the standings while they scramble to call up more goalies.

A team that has been in existence for longer would be able to handle this situation better, mostly because of their connections to prospects in the AHL. Coach Gerard Gallant was more frazzled than any other coach would be in this scenario, because this is the first time in his coaching career that he hasn’t been able to rely on the prospects the team has a relationship with.

The Chicago Wolves are the Golden Knights new AHL affiliate. The Wolves aren’t a new team, but they’ve been most recently affiliated with the St. Louis Blues. Vegas and Chicago haven’t been able to connect as well as other NHL and AHL affiliates, simply because Vegas is so new. This is also a huge problem that was bound to come up, and with all of these goalie injuries, the team is now in a position where they need to utilize their affiliate team’s goalies wisely.

The Golden Knights probably won’t finish in last place of the Western Conference, or even their division. But the likelihood of them reaching the playoffs or even the second round is slim.

 

 

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