The Vegas Golden Knights (15-11) played a solid game Friday night against the Philadelphia Flyers (9-12-4).
That is, at five-on-five.
Special teams cost the Golden Knights the game as they gave up two powerplay goals and went one-for-six on the powerplay. The Golden Knights failed to come back like they did against the Dallas Stars and lost 4-3.
This snaps the Golden Knight’s three-game winning streak but perhaps more notably snaps the Flyer’s ten-game losing streak. Before entering Friday night’s game, the Flyers had been on a rough landslide. They fired head coach Alain Vigneault and replaced him with Mike Yeo. This game marked Yeo’s first win as the Flyers head coach.
The Flyers also got both Sean Couturier and James van Riemsdyk out of their scoring slumps. The two were sitting at fourteen and eleven game scoring droughts respectively. Combine this with a great performance by the also struggling Carter Hart, this game could be a momentum changer for the Flyers.
“You never wanna lose to a team that has lost 10 in a row,” said Reilly Smith postgame.
For the most part, the Golden Knights played a solid game at five-on-five. Despite Chandler Stephenston not being in the lineup, the Golden Knight’s top-six generated a lot of offensive chances. The misfit line of Reilly Smith, William Karlsson, and Jonathan Marchessault combined for a slick goal late in the second period as well.
With Stephenson out of the lineup, Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer went to Keegan Kolesar to serve as the new first-line center. This only lasted about half of the game as he was switched out for Nicolas Roy. Center depth has been something the Golden Knights have struggled with just in general in their first five years, something that Jack Eichel will look to fix.
“When you look at their centermen tonight you got Hayes, Giroux, and Couturier. With Stephenson out we are a little inexperienced up the middle. So we are looking for combinations that can compete with those guys and it was a grind all night,” said DeBoer.
The biggest area of concern for the Golden Knights was their special teams. They have allowed five goals on the powerplay in their past two games against the Flyers and Stars. Winning faceoffs and applying pressure is something the team has struggled with and as a result, it has put them in tough spots down in games.
“We’ve got a find ways to kill penalties. We have got to be committed to blocking shots winning faceoffs and getting that park 200 feet. We have got to be a little bit more aggressive,” said Golden Knights captain Mark Stone.
Entering Wednesday night’s game against the Stars the Golden Knights penalty-kill sat eight in the NHL operating at 83.32%. After just two games, they now sit 22nd in the league at 78.38%.
“I think right at the moment right now I’m more worried about our penalty kill right now than I am the powerplay,” said DeBoer.
The powerplay has also been just as bad and is fourth-worst in the league. The inability to shoot the puck and the constant overthinking and looking for the right play are haunting the team. They are relying too much on Max Pacioretty, who actually scored a powerplay goal tonight but it came too little too late.
“One thing that needs to be better to get us over the hump is our power-play. You get the late one but it’s not good enough. I don’t think we are generating enough chances to gain momentum… It’s frustrating,” said Stone.
Powerplays have become a momentum-sucker for the Golden Knight. Twice during Friday night’s game fans at T-Mobile Arena booed when the Golden Knights powerplay expired.
“We’re not sharp enough. It’s not one player, it’s all of us as a group. We just have to be sharper and a little bit more dangerous. At times we make it too easy on the opposing penalty kill and are too hesitant with the puck and not direct enough. Sometimes you got to just put the puck on net and hope for scrambles,” said Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith.
We are now over thirty percent into the regular season and the Golden Knights continue to be a mediocre team in terms of standings. They are sitting outside of a guaranteed Pacific Division playoff spot now but there is plenty of time left.
But the Golden Knights will need to turn their game around sooner rather. They have to make the playoffs first if they want to make a deep run into the Stanley Cup Playoffs with Jack Eichel in the mix.
They will have a big test Sunday evening as they take on the Minnesota Wild, one of the hottest teams in the league. This will wrap up the Golden Knight’s current homestand and puck drop scheduled for 6:00 pm.