Fans are a fickle mistress in sports. To keep them happy you have to keep winning. Moral victories exist only in post-game platitudes spouted by teams that don’t leave the building with two points in their pockets. So after the Vegas Golden Knights got an ass kicking from the Colorado Avalanche last Thursday night, suddenly there was some unease among the VGK faithful.
Vegas responded with a much better effort and won the game 3-2 in overtime, coming from behind twice against the Avalanche and showing tremendous resolve in doing so.
After the game, VGK head coach Pete DeBoer made mention of keeping your conviction in the face of doubters.
“For the believers out there, thanks for sticking with us. I know there were some doubters out there after the last game but I knew our group would respond with a real good effort. We did that tonight.”
What does a team have to do around here to keep people from breaking their ankles as they jump off the bandwagon?
Maybe I’ve been around the game too long. Maybe I’m just too cynical. Maybe I’m missing something. But if you’re letting that one 5-1 loss be the reason to put this team on blast I don’t think we’re watching the same hockey team.
Sure, there are real reasons for concern. At times the scoring goes dormant. The starts can be slow and the second periods can be dreadful. There are games where if your goalie isn’t keeping you in it, you’re not in it.
Now if I posted that sentence on Twitter and said tell me which team I’m talking about, every fan of every team could identify with it in one way or another and think I was talking about them.
Put another way, bad games happen to good teams. It’s a long (shortened) season.
That’s why not only for the Vegas Golden Knights fans but the team itself they must take care of business against the LA Kings this week. The Kings are a bit of a surprise, contending for the fourth and final playoff spot due to the St. Louis Blues being unable to remember how they won a Stanley Cup 20 months ago and the Arizona Coyotes occasionally figuring out how to shake out the sand and score goals. Both of those teams have three more games played than the Kings and sit within six points of LA.
This season the Kings have been getting it done not from youthful contributions as much as veteran guile. Anze Kopitar and the resurgent Dustin Brown have rediscovered their games. Goaltending is solid. The Kings are scrappy and competitive most nights. And that’s exactly the type of team that could sneak up and steal a game from the Vegas Golden Knights.
To really put the doubters to rest (for now), Vegas needs to win both games and do so with a persistent forecheck, team defense and a full 60-minute effort. If there is one concern I have right now it’s seeing this team play a full game. If they could do that every night they’d dominate. Instead, they seem to rely on flipping the switch at the right time and being able to power through whatever situation they’re in. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Tonight I’d really like to see Vegas come out and unload on the Kings for the first five minutes, get that first goal and just put the game in the rearview mirror. Show that they can dominate over three periods. And show that they can beat the teams they’re supposed to beat.
Until that happens, there will still be some rumblings.