Injuries are something that is never easy to come back from. My dog bit my finger the other day when I was trying to give her a bath and I still have a scar. I couldn’t imagine what some of these athletes in the NHL are going through such as Brett Howden, Jack Hughes, or Clayton Keller.
Rehabbing injuries back into game shape has become an important part of professional sports. Thankfully, medical advancements have allowed us to treat players properly and get them back on the playing field quicker than previous forms of treatment.
The Vegas Golden Knights know this better than any other team as they are nearing the 500 man-games lost to injury mark. No player on the Golden Knights roster has played all of the team’s 77 games. 40 players have been used by the team and nine players have made their NHL debut. Not ideal.
The two most frequently injured Golden Knights are arguably the two best wingers on the team in Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. Combined, the two have missed 88 games with Stone missing 45 and Pacioretty missing 43. This has been a major factor in the success of the Golden Knights this season.
A Not-So Glorious Return
Both players recently returned to the lineup just in the nick of time. The Golden Knights are hanging on by a thread in the Western Conference playoff picture and both Stone and Pacioretty have been able to play the last handful of games after missing significant time due to injuries.
But they haven’t been themselves. In a time when the Golden Knights are in desperate need of their star players performing, Stone and Pacioretty have not been there. In five games Pacioretty has a goal and an assist whereas Stone is still looking for his first point back in four games.
It’s understandable to see players struggle to get their legs underneath them coming back from an injury. But with it being crunch time for the Golden Knights, they simply need more out of Stone and Pacioretty. Both have looked a step behind, whiffing on passes, missing shots, and overthinking things.
The Golden Knight’s offense has struggled overall. They have made fringe NHL goaltenders like Mike Smith and Andrew Hammond look like Vezina-trophy candidates these past two games as they went 99:18 without a goal. The powerplay is also 1/28 since March 25. Stone and Pacioretty have not helped.
Another factor that has cost the Golden Knights with Stone and Pacioretty back in the lineup and not contributing is the laundry list of players on LTIR that are sitting out at their expense. Due to the Evgenii Dadonov trade deadline deal being voided, the Golden Knights have had to place Reilly Smith, Nicolas Hague, Brett Howden, William Carrier, Nolan Patrick, and Laurent Brossoit all on LTIR to activate Stone.
While some of these players are injured for a lengthy amount of time, Peter DeBoer recently came out and said that he expects Smith to be ready for the playoffs if the Golden Knights make it. Looking into this, we can conclude that Smith is likely ready now, but simply can’t play due to cap reasons.
So what Stone and Pacioretty essentially have done with their combined $16.5 million in cap space is inadvertently prevent some of their teammates from returning to the lineup. Not only this but they are failing to contribute in their absence.
Not a good look from two of your top leaders.
Given his recent play would you rather have Reilly Smith and potentially others back in the lineup over Mark Stone? #VegasBorn
— Owen Krepps (@OKrepps85) April 19, 2022
Analyzing the Injuries
I am not trying to downplay the severity of the injuries that both these players have as I am sure it has caused them great deals of discomfort. Stone in particular has dealt with this back injury for the entirety of the season. Pacioretty has had multiple areas of his body injured all season.
From the looks of it, both Stone and Pacioretty are not playing at 100% which worries me in the aspect that they may end up re-injuring themselves trying to play 110% with the playoffs on the line.
I understand the risk that management, DeBoer, and the coaching staff are willing to take to get into the playoffs. But what happens if round one comes and the Golden Knights are up against the Colorado Avalanche without Stone or Pacioretty?
Looking back on things I find it poetic that the second game of the season may have just told the entire story of the season for the Golden Knights. In that game, the Los Angeles Kings, who are currently beating the VGK out for a playoff spot, defeated them 6-2. Not only this but both Stone and Pacioretty left the game with injuries. Stone went on to miss 12 games and Pacioretty 17.
In the business, we call this foreshadowing.
A Tough Spot
So with just five games left on the season and their team out of a playoff spot, all eyes will be on Stone and Pacioretty to quickly get back to the players we all know they can be so that the Golden Knights can try and salvage their playoff hopes. It’s a tough thing to ask from your players but if there are any two players on the Golden Knights roster who know how to preserve through injuries these two are it.
The Golden Knights will play the Washington Capitals on Wednesday at 7:00 pm. They are four points behind both the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators for a Wild Card spot and three behind Los Angeles Kings for third in the Pacific Division.