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‘Still Looking for Character’: Golden Knights Find Some Heart in Win

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Vegas Golden Knights, Reilly Smith, Dallas Stars

Jonathan Marchessault said a mouthful about the current Vegas Golden Knights. Perhaps if we lived in a pre-pandemic or post-vaccinated world, locker rooms would again be open, and VHN could have sidled up to Marchessault to talk about rebuilding character, finding heart, and moving forward.

Wednesday night, the Golden Knights took one of those steps forward with a comeback win over the Dallas Stars, 3-2 in OT.

“It was a gutsy road trip and a gutsy win again today with a short bench. We had more guys leave during the game, so we were basically playing three lines, and the guys dug deep all week,” head coach Pete DeBoer said. 

Adversity made an early stop in Vegas this season.

Mattias Janmark and William Carrier could be the latest added to the walking wounded. Janmark couldn’t go on Wednesday, and Carrier left the game after blocking a shot.

You can’t lose that much talent and win without something else taking its place. The Pittsburgh Penguins remain the shining example across the NHL of having more talent on the trainer’s table than on the ice, yet staying afloat.

The Vegas Golden Knights injuries follow the departures of heart and soul players (Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Reaves), the Golden Knights needed to rebuild internally as on the ice. And injuries piled onto the problem.

You just don’t lose that much character and replace it like a new set of tires.

“We’re still looking for that character. I think we had a rough go before getting on the road and those two games,” Marchessault said after the Wednesday night win. “With those two momentum games, we can turn it around a little bit and start to play some good hockey–a resilient team like we are, we showed that (Wednesday), and it feels good.”

There’s nothing like a win for a little shot of feel-good, though that the toll of the four-game losing streak that ended on Tuesday was still lingering as much as the hole they must fill inside the locker room.

VHN put indirectly put the boots to Evgenii Dadonov on Monday. The talented forward was the biggest offseason acquisition, but his stick had been quiet…too quiet. But two goals in two games led to two wins in two games. Dadonov scored the game-winner on Wednesday.

The Russian forward rose to the occasion this week. It’s as much a needed arrival as it is a good sign. Dadonov was a dynamic offensive player with the Florida Panthers three and two seasons ago, respectively. Not so much with Ottawa last season.

Still winded from the OT winner he buried from point-blank range and flashing that smile missing a front tooth, Dadonov faced the media after the game.

“I don’t know…Roy, it was very much a skilled goal,” Dadonov began. “He dropped down (got me the puck), and I just shoot.”

For all of the analytics and numbers which have appeared in hockey analysis over the past decade, the one thing which cannot be quantified but remains central to any team’s success is heart. The burning desire to win on a Wednesday in Dallas. Or a Tuesday in Winnipeg and a Saturday in Anaheim when the bright lights of national TV aren’t on.

Heart makes a team gritty and tough to play against. Heart brings a team together in a shared goal, especially through adversity.

The stalwarts of the Golden Knights lineup scored on Wednesday. Shea Theodore and Jonathan Marchessault. The team needs Dadonov to be a go-to guy, as well.

Dadonov not only led all Vegas forwards with over 22 minutes of ice time, but he led with four of the team’s 21 shots, too.

We’ll find out more about Janmark and Carrier in the coming days. Losing either would be yet another wound on the already bandaged lineup. But at least it appears the Vegas Golden Knights don’t have a heart problem. They’re starting to find it.

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