Ken Boehlke is one-half of sinbin.vegas. Follow them @SinBinVegas.
We know the Knights benefitted last year from insane goaltending along with their more than solid even-strength play. But having among the worst save-percentage and shooting-percentage this season seems a violent market correction. Is there something systemic here more than just rotten luck?
What it really comes down to is Grade-A scoring chances and the subsequent execution of them. Early in the season the Golden Knights were having a hard time creating anything in the dangerous areas (in the house, if you know that term) but what was worse than their inability to create the chances was a consistency in not finishing those chances when they did arise. Luckily, as tends to be the case in hockey, that has turned recently, especially since they’ve begun to play more
Pacific division teams.
How big is the injury to Paul Stastny?
To be completely honest, it hasn’t had a major impact to this point. It’s the loss of Haula that seems to be more of a detriment to the team. Stastny certainly would have been, and hopefully will eventually be, a nice center for the 2nd line, but Eakin has stepped in incredibly well and appears to be thriving with goal-scorers on his line again. The loss of Haula however has definitely taken an level of speed away from the team and at times they don’t look like the quick, ferocious, probably considered annoying team that won the Western Conference. They’ve been searching for anyone to make the 3rd line go since Haula’s gruesome injury, but it hasn’t really happened yet. Would they be better with Stastny back? Of course, but if you gave me one or the other right now, I’d rather have Haula.
And the suspension to Nate Schmidt? While he’s unquestionably a good player is he really a top pairing d-man that a team would miss so heavily?
I’ll be completely honest in saying I heavily underestimated the impact Schmidt would have in the lineup upon his return. When a guy is out for the first 20 games of the season and the last memories of him are the Cup Final when not a single defenseman was any good, there certainly has to be a level of skepticism about how good the player really is, especially a player who has only a one year track record of being a top pair defenseman. But this guy is everything and more on the ice that made the hockey world realize that he’a a top 20 defenseman in the league and maybe even better. He’s kind of been this a stabilizing force to the defense in that they aren’t allowing an odd-man rush a period anymore, but it’s added an element of transition back into Vegas’ game and most importantly, it’s meant the return of Colin Miller and Shea Theodore to more familiar, less defensively responsible, roles. All of that was a long way to say, YES, Nate Schmidt is that good.
Max Pacioretty started slow, there was concern, and now he’s bagged six goals in four games. Was this just a product of all scorers going through hot and cold streaks?
I don’t think it was simply a cold streak that a scorer tends to go through. We’ve all seen those cold streaks and they tend to mean lots of great saves against, post hits, miraculous backchecking, and the likes. That’s not what this was for Pacioretty. He was just not good. He wasn’t creating much by means of scoring chances and he was uncharacteristically a liability defensively. When I say he was bad, I mean, he was legitimately one of the worst forwards on the team. However, he’s definitely not that anymore, and it’s not because he’s scored a bunch of goals recently. It seems to have much more to do with
his linemates. Playing with Alex Tuch isn’t as simple as it would seem. He’s so much faster than he looks and he plays with a power that’s not horribly common in the NHL. Pacioretty seemed to always been a half second behind Tuch, likely because he didn’t expect Alex to be able to pull off some of the stuff that he does. Now, Pacioretty expects Tuch to win every puck, to undress guys at the blue line, and to fire passes through people every shift. Pacioretty is starting to find himself in much better positions when Tuch and Eakin create turnovers, and the three of them are starting to look dangerous every single time out as a unit rather than individually. Pacioretty told me about two weeks ago that he thought he was thinking too much and it was slowing him down. That’s a huge problem when you play with Tuch. That appears to be over
and the flood gates might just be open.
Game #25 Preview Suite