Let’s address the elephant in the room, shall we? It really should come as no surprise if you’ve followed this team even as recently as last year’s playoffs, but it’s a major factor that can’t be ignored and has cost the Vegas Golden Knights some very important games both regular and post-season.
First, a history lesson.
In the Inaugural Season for the Vegas Golden Knights, the team went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Game One was an explosive affair, won by the VGK 6-4.
It was the high-water mark of the series for Vegas.
After that, the team lost four straight games: 3-2, 3-1, 6-2, 4-3. The Caps captured the Cup in five.
We’ll fast-forward past that unfortunate non-penalty garbage against the San Jose Sharks to the last playoffs. Vegas won its first five playoff games scoring four or more goals every time. In fact, in the first 10 wins of the playoffs the VGK topped the four-goal mark in all but two of those contests.
Then the scoring went away.
Leading three games to one against the Vancouver Canucks, the Golden Knights scoring went cold, managing only one goal in those two games. Vegas did win Game Seven 3-0 to advance, but the scoring was absent in a five-game loss to the Dallas Stars. In that series, Vegas only once scored three goals in a game (the only win) and managed just five total over the other four games.
The massive, daunting question facing the Vegas Golden Knights is this: has the consistency of scoring been fixed for this year’s Stanley Cup run?
Looking at the cast of characters from last year, there have been few changes up front. The Golden Knights did make a trade for Mattias Janmark to add depth, but he’s unlikely to explode into a role as the team’s leading scorer these playoffs. Paul Stastny is gone to the Winnipeg Jets and Chandler Stephenson has stepped up to fill that role. Cody Glass has not seized the opportunity and has spent the second half of the season with the AHL’s Henderson Silver Knights. And most unfortunate of all, Max Pacioretty is out at least to start the series with an undisclosed injury.
The really big change for the Golden Knights was the addition of Alex Pietrangelo on defense. Fortunately, Pietrangelo is rounding into shape in terms of his play after missing some time due to injury and just plain old adjusting to a new system after years in another one.
Pietrangelo will help provide more offense, and it also opens up Shea Theodore in a second-pairing role where he will have more room to roam, create and produce instead of worrying about defending the opponent’s top forward line. While Pietrangelo is undeniably a star player on a blue line studded with them, it did put the Golden Knights in cap jail several times during the regular season.
Here’s what worries me: nothing was done up front to address the scoring.
Keep in mind those above totals I threw at you. Vegas at times is absolutely dominating. But then they just disappear. And nothing was done to add that one more scoring forward who can be counted on to break the slide when it happens.
Partly because of the acquisition of Pietrangelo, and partly because GM Kelly McCrimmon said the Golden Knights were just fine without adding anyone either in the summer or the deadline. On paper, he’s right. They should have enough firepower by far. But major flameouts from the top six forwards are deadly, and history would suggest likely. To me, this is the only issue that can stop the Golden Knights from reaching the Stanley Cup Final once again is a lack of scoring.
I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not sure it won’t happen again.
Do you think this year will be different? Let me know in the comments.