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Golden Knights Analysis

Why This Year’s Golden Knights Couldn’t Deliver



Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone (Photo- Vegas Golden Knights via Twitter)

Even if every actor knew all of his or her lines, a director wouldn’t dare put a show on Broadway without several weeks of rehearsing. Without the cast spending time together, timing would be off. Chemistry would be non-existent.

The audience would know almost immediately that something was wrong.

That’s exactly what happened to the Vegas Golden Knights in the opening round of the NHL playoffs. They knew the script. They knew how the plot was supposed to unfold. But something was amiss from the beginning.

If you are looking for reasons for why this season’s playoffs did not go as well as last season’s postseason, start with the fact that this team had no time to form chemistry

No Time Together

Tomas Hertl and Mark Stone, two critical players to the Vegas repeat hopes, had never played together before the postseason. It was no one’s fault. Hertl was injured when the Golden Knights acquired him from the San Jose Sharks. He played six games in a Vegas jersey before the playoffs began, and most of those games were used to shake off the rust.

Stone had not played for 62 days when he and Hertl played together for the first time.

To make matters worse, Alex Pietrangelo, crucial to last year’s Stanley Cup success, had played two games in 40 days when the NHL playoffs started. Complications from an appendectomy on top of a previous injury kept Pietrangelo out of competition for too long.

It also didn’t help that goalie Adin Hill was fighting through injuries down the stretch and William Karlsson played the entire series too hurt to practice.

Cassidy Shuffled the Deck

Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy tried everything to restore the team’s chemistry, altering the lineup, switching goalies and changing up the lines every game. Nothing worked.

“We did get healthy enough for the playoffs, so that was the positive, and now you’re trying to get a team up to speed in a hurry, and obviously I didn’t do a good enough job of that,” Cassidy said. “But I mean, that’s a lot of surgeries in one year for guys to overcome, and it defines your game. If we could have built it a little bit better in March and April, maybe it’s a little smoother in the playoff round, but that’s the hand you’re dealt. We needed to be one goal better at the end of the day. That’s it.”

No one should feel sorry for the Golden Knights. This is life in the NHL. Teams lose their top players all of the time because of injury, illness and other factors.

Golden Knights Chemistry Wasn’t There

And sometimes teams can overcome rusty players and poor chemistry. The team’s cohesiveness improves as players continue to play high pressure games.

But you are not going to work out the kinks in your game while competing against a team that went 17-4 down the stretch and gives up 28 shots per game. The Stars have been a top 10 defensive team all season.

Drawing the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed in the first round turned out to be an even bigger disadvantage than was anticipated.

With their offense out of sync, the Golden Knights had no margin for error against the Stars. The defending Stanley Cup champions couldn’t score more than two goals in any of their last five games against Dallas.

“It’s disappointing,” Stone said. “But I guess for our organization, fuel the fire. We’ll be ready for September to be right back here next season.”