We’re almost ten games into the 2022-23 NHL season, and with the Vegas Golden Knights having a full rest day today, I think now is a good time to take a big-picture look at how they have looked so far.
They’ve looked pretty good, all things considered. It’s amazing what a full offseason of rest and recovery can do for a team that battled through injuries all of last season. They have only had Will Carrier miss a couple of games early on this season. Outside of that, the Golden Knights have been healthy.
Jack Eichel, Reilly Smith, Mark Stone, Nicolas Hague, Brett Howden, and Alec Martinez are all enjoying bounce-back seasons from a health standpoint. Let’s hope everyone can continue to stay healthy.
Here are some evaluations I’ve had over the Golden Knight’s first eight games of the season. After missing the playoffs last season, they are currently first in the Pacific Division with a 6-2 record.
Bruce, There It Is
With the Vancouver Canucks to a horrendous start this season, Bruce Cassidy has taken over as the best coach in the NHL named Bruce. He might challenge for the best coach in the NHL in general too.
His systems have made the Golden Knights defend well and force shots to the outside. Opposing teams have had to work for their goals and have not been given high-priced real estate slot chances. The VGK lead the league in the fewest goals against average per game (2.00).
Cassidy has worked with what he has got with his line combinations and mostly gotten as much as he can out of his players. His newly formed top-six with the Misfits, Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, and Chandler Stephenson, has been working. William Karlsson, in particular, has thrived under Cassidy’s new systems.
A positive result of Cassidy’s systems has been the goaltending tandem of Logan Thompson and Adin Hill. With everyone expecting this goalie duo to falter, they haven’t so far and are second in the league in save percentage, behind only the Dallas Stars.
Cassidy’s systems have made things easier on both of them, yes, but that is not to say they have not been solid when needed. As the presumptive starter, Thompson has made huge saves against the Chicago Blackhawks and Calgary Flames.
Things will only get more interesting when injured goaltender Laurent Brossoit comes back into the mix.
Pietrangelo Taking Time
On the opposite side of the spectrum, a player who has not adjusted well to Cassidy’s new systems is veteran defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. He’s looked out of place, unsure of himself, and lazy in most of the Golden Knight’s games. His puck-control skills and passing have not been there.
Looking at the big picture even more, the Golden Knights are going to need a scoring winger to be a threat in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They lost Max Pacioretty, Evgenii Dadonov, and Mattias Janmark in the offseason and replaced them all with just Phil Kessel.
I know everyone is riding high on Kessel after his memorable last two games, but he has been disappointing in a Golden Knights sweater, to say the least. He’s slow, not physical, and the play typically dies when the puck hits his stick. There is a reason he was taken out of the top six.
Outside of Stone, Smith, and Marchessault, the Golden Knights don’t have any other top NHL wingers, which is something they will need to fix either internally or on the NHL trade market.
Still a Notch Below
As good as the Golden Knights have been this season, I think they are still a notch below some of the big Stanley Cup contenders this season, like the Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames, the only teams they have lost to this season so far. They need more scoring and guys like Pietrangelo to adjust.
Maybe this is a good thing for the Golden Knights, whose early success was built around nobody taking them seriously as misfits. A lot of names have moved on since that first season, but some still remain.
Current Golden Knights Lines/Depth Chart
Because I’m obsessed with line combinations and how teams stack up from an overall depth perspective, here’s the Golden Knight’s lineup/depth chart to help everyone get a feel for where the team is at now.
HC: Bruce Cassidy GM: Kelly McCrimmon
Chandler Stephenson- Jack Eichel- Mark Stone (c)
Jonathan Marchessault- William Karlsson- Reilly Smith
Michael Amadio- Brett Howden- Phil Kessel
Will Carrier- Nicolas Roy- Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez- Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb- Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague- Zach Whitecloud
Logan Thompson/Adin Hill
Leading Point Scorers: Marchessault, Eichel, Stephenson (7), Stone, Theodore (6), Karlsson (5)
Scratched: Ben Hutton, Paul Cotter, Jake Leschyshyn
IR: Laurent Brossoit
LTIR: Robin Lehner, Nolan Patrick, Shea Weber
HSK: Jonas Rondbjerg, Pavel Dorofeyev, Sakari Manninen, Brendan Brisson