We have officially hit the halfway mark of the 2022-23 NHL regular season. But the Vegas Golden Knights are hoping that their season is far from halfway over, as they aim to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs after missing last season.
Injuries were, without a doubt, the main catalyst for why the Golden Knights missed the playoffs last season. They were without key players like Mark Stone, Jack Eichel, William Karlsson, Robin Lehner, Max Pacioretty, and Alec Martinez for significant periods of time.
This season, the injury bug has once again hit the VGK mid-season, but they have done a much better job weathering the storm.
"I think we did a really good job. Obviously, we started hot, but then it was a little tougher for a couple of weeks there. We finished strong, and with all the injuries we had, it was pretty good, and I just think we have to keep going that way as we get more bodies back," said forward Nicolas Roy.
Against the Colorado Avalanche just a few days ago, the Golden Knights were missing nine roster players in their lineup. This included key pieces like Eichel, Martinez, Shea Theodore, and Jonathan Marchessault.
Amidst injuries, call-ups and emerging players from the Henderson Silver Knights, such as Daniil Miromanov, Jake Leschyshyn, and Paul Cotter, have come in and helped the team win. Now, the Golden Knights are starting to get healthier with guys like Eichel, Cotter, and Marchessault back.
"I'm very proud of our group through this year. We're going into the new year in first place with a lot of different faces contributing, and we still got the health of some guys that have been great for us," said head coach Bruce Cassidy.
Their record hasn't been as strong as it was earlier on in the season when they put up a nine-game winning streak. But the Golden Knights are still first in the Pacific Division, ahead of the LA Kings by six points, which means no chasing for a playoff spot like last season (for now).
"The best part of the start of the year for me is our resiliency and losing all those guys but still being able to accumulate points and not have to chase it. I think is going to be really important for us in the second half, knowing that we can win no matter who's in the lineup," said Cassidy.
Mark Stone, who has played in every game this season after missing 45 games last year, has 38 points in 41 games. Logan Thompson, who took over the net from injured starter Robin Lehner, has been spectacular and is now an NHL All-Star.
"Stone was a big question mark coming off that surgery. He's played every game and really helped us win, and is the captain for a reason. The goaltending, we've watched Logan grow in front of our eyes. So there are a lot of positives. And like I said, I'm happy for the guys and looking forward to seeing what our team looks like when we do get healthy. I expect it to be a real dangerous group," added Cassidy.
The Golden Knights have several goals for the season half of the season. Obviously, continuing to win and making the playoffs is priority no. 1.
"We don't want to repeat what happened last year. I like where we are; we're in a good spot and still working on our game and finding our stride. As the season goes along, we want to just keep getting better, and by the time the playoffs come, hopefully we're hitting our stride then," said defensemen Nicolas Hague.
Playing a full 60-minute game is another focus for the VGK, who seemingly have a strong 1-2 periods every night, and one weak period.
"We want to play more 60 minutes. Every game, we seem to play good for the first period or the third period, but we haven't put those 60 minutes effort together every night, so I think we have to build off that," said Nicolas Roy.
Head coach Cassidy says that becoming a 60-minute team will come in time and that the VGK are on the right track so far.
“We want to be a 60-minute team, and that doesn’t happen in October. It takes a while to get to there and get to your identity and be who you want to be. We are building towards that, and that is the goal for the second half," said Cassidy.
The Golden Knights start their second half of the season at home against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday at 7:00 p.m.