The Vegas Golden Knights Stanley Cup Final defense started 35 games ago. While the current three-game losing skid clouds the perspective on the overall season, Golden Knights fans would have been fine with their team tied for the Pacific Division lead 35 games in.
The Golden Knights are on pace for 109 points which is two fewer points than last year’s total.
Team defense and goaltending are a concern, but the Golden Knights have 47 games to get things figured out.
Here are the pluses and minuses from the first 35 games of the season.
+ Jack Eichel is him
Remember how concerned some Golden Knights fans were when Alex Tuch was traded away from the team? This is not about knocking Tuch by any means, he has taken his game to a new level with the Buffalo Sabres, but Eichel is the player the Golden Knights needed and lacked.
Eichel has 39 points and is on pace for 91 points. The top line of Eichel, Ivan Barbashev, and Mark Stone is establishing itself as one of the best forward lines in the NHL.
+ Mark Stone’s back and his back is back too.
Stone has 35 points in 35 games and has been a difference-maker on and off the ice. A point-per-game over an 82-game season would be a career-best.
After the first regular game of the regular season, I asked Stone how his back was feeling. He had been carrying the Stanley Cup around a lot leading up to the start of the regular season and he had this to say.
So far so good for Stone and his back.
– Goalie injuries
Let’s just get this out there. It will be extremely difficult for the Golden Knights to contend for a Stanley Cup without Logan Thompson and Adin Hill. General manager Kelly McCrimmon had an ace up his sleeve last year in Laurent Brossoit. The Golden Knights even waived Brossoit after his rehab stint with the Henderson Silver Knights, thankfully no one claimed Brossoit.
McCrimmon does not have an ace up his sleeve in Patera, at least not yet. This is not about knocking Patera or his ability. We are acknowledging the reality of the fact that Patera has 316 minutes of NHL experience.
+ William Karlsson’s resurgence
Karlsson has matched last year’s goal total with 14 and is pacing for 32 goals which would be a career second best. Karlsson’s career-best goals came in 2017-18 when he scored 43 goals with Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith as his linemates. This season he is putting up impressive scoring as a third-line center.
Karlsson’s resurgence has created mismatches for the Golden Knights’ oppositions.
+ Ben Hutton, Brayden Pachal, and Kaedan Korczak
Where would the Golden Knights be without Hutton, Pachal, and Korczak?
+ Michael Amadio is the Hutton of the forwards
Hutton is the Swiss Army knife of the defensemen. The same can be said of Amadio. Amadio can play in the middle or on the wing of any of the forward lines and adjust his game accordingly. The 27-year-old is on pace for 38 points which would beat his career best of 27 points.
– Brett Howden as a second-line forward
There is nothing wrong with Brett Howden the player. He is who he is. Similar to Amadio as far as being able to wear multiple hats for the team. The Golden Knights may want to explore internal options to boost scoring on the second line with Chandler Stephenson and Jonathan Marchessault.
+ Pavel Dorofeyev needs to play
The answer to the lack of scoring from the left wing on the second line could be Dorofeyev. Dorofeyev has seven points in 16 games which paces for 43 points. Dorofeyev is a better skill option on a line with Stephenson and Marchessault than Howden.
+ Trust the #McCrimmoPlan
Another season of hockey means another season of goaltender injuries in Vegas. That is the reality that Golden Knights fans have come to accept dating back to season one.
The Golden Knights have used nine defensemen through 35 games.
The obstacles thrown at McCrimmon and the Golden Knights do not matter. McCrimmon always has the answers to making the Golden Knights roster able to contend for a Stanley Cup.
Have patience after the Holiday break, it could be a bumpy ride for a few more weeks. But rest assured, McCrimmon has the answers to whatever obstacles the Golden Knights are facing from a roster composition perspective.