For the first time since December 28th of last year, the Vegas Golden Knights are finally back on the road. The team was gifted an extended homestand due to their two-game road trip in Alberta to take on the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers getting postponed due to COVID-19. In their extended eight-game homestand the Golden Knights went 3-3-2, a lackluster home record.
But now journeying to the Southeast United States, the Golden Knights will look to recapture the magic they had in their most recent road trip. That trip, which was set in the Northeastern United States, saw the Golden Knights sweep the Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, and New York Islanders.
It will be a tough challenge though as the Golden Knights are up against four of the best teams in the entire NHL. Games against the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, and Tampa Bay Lightning are all on the horizon for the Golden Knights.
“It’s a big test for us. All four teams are very good defensively and have high-flying offenses. It’s going to be a huge challenge. Our defensive structure is going to have to be dialed in and if we do that we will be giving ourselves a chance to win every night,” said Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb.
Not only this the Golden Knights will play these four games over the span of six days. This is a far cry from the three games in fifteen days that the Golden Knights are just coming off of.
“Sometimes it is refreshing to get on the road. You go from a long homestand in what we had, I think it is nice to kind of get back to the Vegas-way of playing and getting some confidence and bodies back too,” said Stephenson.
Golden Knights Injury Updates
Speaking of getting bodies back, Zach Whitecloud, Nicolas Hauge, Laurent Brossoit, Max Pacioretty, Logan Thompson, and even Jack Eichel all are traveling with the Golden Knights. Mark Stone is the only name absent, currently in COVID-19 protocols. There is a chance he could even join the Golden Knights on the road trip, flying out separately.
easy like Sunday morning ☀️ pic.twitter.com/Hy18Dco2s2
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) January 23, 2022
“We had four lines and seven defensemen in practice today for the first time in a long time… We know what we are facing here with this gauntlet of teams. I think the guys are excited about the opportunity to play some of these teams,” said Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer.
Opponent 1- Washington Capitals 1/24
The first game of the road trip will be Monday night against the Washington Capitals. The Capitals are once again having a strong season, and like the Golden Knights, have been ravaged with injuries. Nicklas Backstrom has played in only nine games this season, Anthony Mantha 10, and TJ Oshie 18.
But despite all of this the team is tied for third in the Metropolitan Division with Alex Ovechkin leading the way in his 17th season. The 36-year old has 29 goals and 29 assists in 42 games for the Capitals this season. Injuries have green-lit the careers of young players like Connor McMichael, Aliaksei Protas, and Martin Fehevary.
“Simply put it has been a rollercoaster of a season. Injuries and COVID-19 have caused a lot of Hershey guys to come on up and prove their worth.”- Washington Hockey Now’s Sammi Silber.
Monday night will also mark the return of Chandler Stephenson in D.C. for the first time since he was traded to the Golden Knights. Stephenson spent five years in Washington, played in 168 games, and won a Stanley Cup.
“It just kind of feels a little different. It has been a while. I think that is what feels so different about it is that it has been so long. It is good to see some of the training staff at the rink today, some familiar faces, and catch up,” said Stephenson.
Opponent 2- Carolina Hurricanes 1/25
Tuesday night’s game against the Hurricanes marks the first back-to-back game for the Golden Knights since the 16th and 17th of December when the Golden Knights took on the Devils and Rangers. With Brossoit now traveling with the team, he will look to make his return in one of the team’s back-to-back games. He has missed the last six games with an undisclosed injury.
The Hurricanes are second in the Metropolitan Division with 56 points. All things considered, the Hurricanes have had a relatively healthy season. They are led in scoring by Sebastian Aho who has 42 points in 35 games played. Anthony DeAngelo, who was acquired in the offseason has had quite the resurgence as he has 32 points in 31 games. Frederick Andersen has also put up Vezina-level numbers with 21 wins and a .928 save percentage.
Opponent 3- Florida Panthers 1/27
The Panthers have been quite the entertaining team to watch this season. They like to score goals and a lot of them to be exact. The Panthers have a +50 goal differential this season which is eons better than the second-placed Tampa Bay Lightning in this department with a +26. They’ve put up nine goals twice this season, seven goals twice, and six goals three times.
“The Panthers had high expectations coming into the season and through the first half, are exceeding them. Florida went into the second half leading the NHL in points, goals, and home record. This team is a legit Stanley Cup contender.”- Florida Hockey Now’s George Richards.
The Golden Knights have put an emphasis on defending well all season. They have struggled recently with playing physical and boxing-out guys in front of the net. The defensive structure for the Golden Knights will be greatly tested when they take on the Florida Panthers this Thursday. Hopefully, they can do so with a fully-healthy back end.
Opponent 4- Tampa Bay Lightning 1/29
To wrap up the road trip the Golden Knights have perhaps the strongest team of them all in the Tampa Bay Lightning. The back-to-back defending Stanley Cup Champions are tied for the Panthers for first in the Atlantic Division standings. Despite not having Nikita Kucerhov once more, the Lightning are still a sure-fire Stanley Cup Contender as they look for their third-straight Stanley Cup.
They are led in scoring by captain and two-time Stanley Cup champion Steven Stamkos. Their core is still intact with Victor Hedman, Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point, and Alex Killorn all contributing. But perhaps the most valuable name in Andrei Vasilevskiy will be the hardest test for the Golden Knights.
As of recent, the Golden Knights have struggled in games in which they have registered 40+ shots. Against the Montreal Canadiens, the Golden Knights were only one shot off from tying their all-time shot record with 54 shots. Vasilevskiy is simply an incredible goaltender, and the Golden Knights cannot afford to fall into this trap once more.
A Sigh of Relief on the Horizon
After this brutal road trip, the Golden Knights return home for one game against the Buffalo Sabres and then they start their All-Star break. T-Mobile Arena will play host to some of the best names in the game on the first weekend of February. The Golden Knights will look to rest as their next game is a far seven days later.
After this road trip, we could be looking at the potential return of Jack Eichel too. Even more, motivation for the Golden Knights to perform well on this upcoming road trip. Four potential Stanley Cup Finals?