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Golden Knights: Immaculate October, Or Was It?



Bruce Cassidy after 9/29/23 Preseason game. Credit VHN Chris Gawlik

The Vegas Golden Knights went 9-0-1 and earned 19 of a possible 20 points in the first month of the season. In the first month of the season that had a short summer filled with Stanley Cup parties.

The Golden Knights have not looked their best in many of the first 10 games of the season. Are results all that matter? Or is there an underlying concern over the team’s hot start? “It’s 19 out of 20 frickin points. We’re missing one point.” Cassidy after Monday’s victory against the Montreal Canadiens. “We can sit there and digest our game, we can do this better or that better. We just got 19 out of 20 points.”

Vegas is feeling more and more like a major sports market every day. The Golden Knights had a historic start after a historic season and the local media (myself included) was taking turns poking holes in the victory Monday night.

The positives

William Karlsson: Are we seeing a resurgence of the guy who was “pretty great” in season one? Karlsson had 78 points (43 goals) in the 2017-18 season. This season Karlsson has 11 points (three goals) in the first 10 games. There is one key difference; Karlsson’s linemates. Karlsson centered the top line with Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith in season one. The 30-year-old’s role has changed in season seven. Karlsson centers the third line with Michael Amadio, Brett Howden, or Pavel Dorofeyev. Generally, the third line is called upon to shut down the opposition’s top line. More of a defense-first mentality.

Adin Hill and Logan Thompson: The goaltending tandem of Hill and Thompson has a combined .926 SV% and 2.20 GA/G. Hill and Thompson keep the Golden Knights in every game. Health pending, Hill and Thompson have a reasonable chance to share the Jennings Trophy which is awarded to the goalie or goalies that have the fewest goals against and played a minimum of 25 games.

Shea Theodore: Speaking of trophies; Theodore is making an early case for Norris Trophy consideration. Had you read Vegas Hockey Now’s article from three months ago, you could have placed a bet on Theodore to win the Norris at +15,000. Theodore’s odds to win the Norris today are half of what they opened the season at. The 26-year-old is having a great start to the new season averaging a point per game. Theodore has 238 minutes of ice time on the new season which ranks him just five minutes behind the leader. Cassidy trusts Theodore in all situations, including shootouts.

Jack Eichel: Eichel is doing what Eichel does, averaging a point per game. Eichel is also doing something new, shooting more. The 27-year-old is second in the league in shots on goal. Eichel’s newfound love for shooting could also be a concern. The top line has not been clicking as well as last postseason. This is a good time to keep experimenting as the Golden Knights have not suffered a loss in regulation yet.

Depth: Zach Whitecloud, Alex Pietrangelo, Alec Martinez, Brett Howden, William Carrier, and Nic Roy have all missed games. Ben Hutton, Brayden Pachal, Kaeden Korczak, Pavel Dorofeyev, and Jonas Rondbjerg have been better than serviceable. This year’s Golden Knights team is deeper than last year’s.

The concerns

Injuries: All but Howden mentioned in the paragraph above have missed time due to injuries. It is early in the season still, but it does not seem like the injury bug is going to do Vegas any favors for the third season in a row.

60-minute efforts few and far between: Through 10 games, there were only three games in which the Golden Knights can be credited for a solid 60 minutes of hockey. 10/12 vs. San Jose Sharks, 10/14 vs. Anaheim Ducks, and 10/17 vs. Dallas Stars. The other seven games featured pockets large pockets of the Golden Knights being outplayed. “We just find ways to win and that’s all that matters.” Eichel after Saturday’s victory against the Los Angeles Kings. Will the Golden Knights find ways to win as the games get tougher?

Something is off: Mark Stone gave an impromptu state of the team in Monday’s media scrum after the victory against the Canadiens. “It’s the execution, we are not breaking out as clean as we normally do. We’re not making the plays in the offensive zone we normally do. It’s just a little off, right?” Cassidy said something similar. “At time’s we have not been respectful enough of the game and process.”

The takeaway

The team’s captain and coach are making statements that you would not normally hear from a team that left just one point on the table in an entire month. It would be interesting to see what someone who does not follow hockey would guess what the Golden Knights’ record was after listening to Cassidy and Stone after Monday’s game.

The ultimate takeaway here will be determined by November’s record. The Golden Knights have five home games and nine road games in November. Eight of the nine road games are during challenging road trips. 16 of a possible 28 points would be a fine month and signal most of the things Stone and Cassidy mentioned are fixed, or on the path at least. If the Golden Knights put up just 10 points in November, we can look back to all the things that were mentioned in October being warning signs for darker days ahead.

Was October an immaculate month?

To answer the question of the article, yes – October was immaculate record if we are only focusing on the results. It is clear that Cassidy and Stone are not focusing only on the results and have concerns.

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