Don’t look now but the Vegas Golden Knights are struggling. Wednesday night’s loss against the Colorado Avalanche was not only Darcy Kuemper’s second-straight shutout, but it was the Golden Knight’s second time being shutout in as many games. The team has not scored a goal since last Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers which accounts adds up to 139:46.
Meanwhile, the Avalanche, Calgary Flames, Anaheim Ducks, and even Edmonton Oilers are gaining traction in the Western Conference. The Golden Knights, even with their golden boy in Jack Eichel are eighth in the West. Thankfully for the VGK, the season is not over.
Six Takeaways From the Golden Knights 2-0 Loss
1- He Looks Good- But Give Him Time
Yep, Jack Eichel is officially a Knight. But unlike Nick Cousins, Cody Glass, and Alec Martinez, Eichel was unable to score in his Golden Knights debut. He was on the ice for just over 17 and a half minutes, had one shot on goal, four penalty minutes, but like the rest of the team, had no points
He showed us some brief glimpses of what we are in store for over the next five-plus seasons. His stickhandling, speed, shot, and passing abilities all got brief looks. He set up Evgenii Dadonov off the rush on a chance which Dadonov couldn’t bury on.
“I thought he worked hard. Eleven months off and then to jump in during the middle of the season against arguably the best team in the league is a big ask,” said Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer.
It will take time for Eichel to get back to 100% game speed. You simply can’t replicate games in practice. Be patient, the real Jack Eichel will soon stand up.
2- An Unnecessary and Dirty Hit From Mackinnon
On the topic of star centerman in the league, Nathan Mackinnon was a talking point Wednesday night. In the first period, he threw an elbow at Nolan Patrick who took it to the noggin and went down. Patrick, who has had an unfortunate history with concussions left the game and did not return.
Scary moments for Nolan Patrick after a shoulder to the head from Nathan MacKinnon. pic.twitter.com/b5NZs7BQ7Q
— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) February 17, 2022
Personally, I am not too fond of this one and expect some sort of discipline for Mackinnon.
“I would hope with Colorado, especially because they have dealt with head injuries to (Bowen) Byram that players on both teams would have some sensitivity to guys like that in vulnerable positions… It’s not good for Nolan (Patrick) given his history. I don’t have an opinion on the hit yet,” said DeBoer.
3- Scoring Woes or Hot Goaltenders?
For the first time in franchise history, the Golden Knights have been shutout in back-to-back games. They put up 28 shots against Jakob Markstrom last Wednesday and 29 against Darcy Kuemper. Both goaltenders shut down the Knight’s offense.
“We got shutout so you are never happy but with two clear-cut breakaways, we had some good looks. You have to give their goalie some credit. I think that was going to be a 2-1/3-2 playoff-type game one way or another. But I am disappointed we didn’t stick one in the net,” said DeBoer.
4- Stick With What You Know
With Eichel in the lineup, DeBoer went with a new-look offense for Wednesday night’s game. One of his moves on offense was to split up the Misfit Line of Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, and William Karlsson. Asked after practice about the line combinations DeBoer said the following.
“I think we are going to look at everything. What we don’t want to do is we don’t want to get to the playoffs or late in the season and then start experimenting,” said DeBoer.
However, Mattias Janmark on the Misfit Line instead of Marchessault didn’t seem to work out and during the third period, he was subsequently moved off the line. Perhaps it’s better to keep the Misfits together.
5- The Avalanche Play as a Unit- Not as Individual Superstars
On paper, the Golden Knights have far more superstars than the Colorado Avalanche. But to me, it seems as if this doesn’t matter at all as it’s how the superstars work as a unit that truly matters. Watching the Avalanche’s top powerplay unit of Mackinnon, Nazem Kadri, Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen had me in awe of
This is part of the reason I am so keen on the Golden Knights not trading Reilly Smith. The chemistry he has with Karlsson and Marchessault is one that has developed over the course of five seasons. You simply cannot replicate that unless you want to spend another five years doing so.
Without getting too in-depth do the Golden Knights need a few more years to truly compete for a Stanley Cup? How much forced chemistry can Jack Eichel and Max Pacioretty have before the playoff? How will Mark Stone mesh into the lineup when he comes back too?
Has this team become more of just an EA Sports Franchise Mode than an actual NHL team?
6- An Overall Fast-Paced Playoff-Like Game
Overall, you can look at Wednesday night’s game in one of two ways. On the positive side, the Golden Knights played a tightly contested game against a top opponent and skated with them for the majority of the game. Eichel played fine and will only get better as he plays more games.
But on the negative side, this is yet another loss for what is supposed to be a Stanley Cup contending team. The Avalanche showed them what a true contender looked like. Not only that but this marks the Golden Knight’s second-straight shutout loss and the Flames, Ducks, Kings, and Oilers are all gaining on them or have already passed them in the standings.