Golden Knights Looking Like Stanley Cup Contenders, Are They?
Since the All-Star Break, the Vegas Golden Knights are 12-2-2. The team is getting hot right as it ma…
Since the All-Star Break, the Vegas Golden Knights are 12-2-2. The team is getting hot right as it matters in the stretch run up to the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They currently lead the Pacific Division with 88 points after they missed the playoffs outright in 2021-22.
The VGK have put together wins against top teams such as the New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, and Tampa Bay Lightning. They haven't been perfect wins, with some featuring blown leads, but they have been wins nonetheless.
Jack Eichel and Shea Theodore are leading the team by example and guys like Chandler Stephenson and William Karlsson are emerging from scoring slumps. The Golden Knights are doing all of this down to their fourth and fifth-string goaltenders and without captain Mark Stone.
With the Western Conference wide open, the Golden Knights could be primed to make a run toward their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Are they legitimate Stanley Cup Contenders?
This is a good group of hockey players. On paper, the Golden Knights have a lot of what is needed to win a Stanley Cup. They have a prime-time star centerman in Jack Eichel, not one, but two excellent puck-moving defensemen in Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo, a group of good scoring forwards in Reilly Smith, Chandler Stephenson, and Jonathan Marchessault, and a good head coach in Bruce Cassidy.
But there are two key areas in which they falter compared to past Cup-winning teams; goaltending and forward depth.
Goaltending has been something that has been hard to predict/control for the VGK this season. Injuries have resulted in the team playing five goaltenders with traditional starter Robin Lehner out for the season. Even with a healthy group of goaltenders none of Logan Thompson, Adin Hill, Laurent Brossoit, or Jiri Patera are proven starters in the NHL, let along Stanley Cup winners.
Jonathan Quick, who was acquired at the trade deadline is, a proven starter/Stanley Cup Champion but his career has been regressing for the last couple of season and there may not be enough gas left in the tank for Quick in the NHL.
When is the last time, if ever, a team won a Stanley Cup with four good, but not great NHL goaltenders?
The Golden Knights have been at their best this season when they have all four forward lines contributing. The line of Nicolas Roy, Will Carrier, and Keegan Kolesar had a good stretch to start the year. Now every member of that line is injured.
Forwards Brett Howden, Phil Kessel, Michael Amadio, and Paul Cotter have all been far too inconsistent to be relied upon in a seven-game series. Coach Cassidy has benched these players several times in close games, leaving the work to the established forwards.
At the trade deadline, general manager Kelly McCrimmon added both Teddy Blueger and Ivan Barbashev to try and bolster the team's depth. So far, both players have been good fits, but the problem of Cassidy not trusting his forwards is still there.
If the Golden Knights are going to be a contender, they will need more stable production from their depth forwards.
If the Golden Knights can get one of their five goaltenders to get hot and stay healthy as well as more production from their depth forwards, they have a shot at the cup. But right now, we still don't see the Golden Knights making it out of the first round.
The Golden Knights are winning right now, yes, but we have yet to see what they will play like when things really matter. This is a good hockey team, but in our opinion they are a step removed from the Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, and Tampa Bay Lightning.