**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**
To paraphrase Shakespeare, I had come to T-Mobile Arena to bury the Golden Knights, not to praise them.
But after Sunday’s performance, a 6-0 manhandling of the Calgary Flames, I can do nothing of the sort.
I was ready to lay out my case before you, dear SinBinners, pointing out the obvious shortcomings while trying to come up with not-so-obvious fixes to what was manifesting itself into a serious problem.
Instead, let me quote one George “Spanky” McFarland, who once asked of his pal Scotty in an episode of The Little Rascals and I ask of the Golden Knights: “What took you so long?”
Shakespeare and Spanky. In one column. You don’t get that every day, now do you?
But in all seriousness, what you saw from the Knights Sunday in putting the brakes on the team’s five-game losing streak should give you hope and also leave you wondering why it’s not this way all the time.
The answer is: If it was any one singular thing, it would have been fixed. If it was easy to fix, it would have long since been done by Gerard Gallant.
If it wasn’t so damned complicated, you wouldn’t be so damn frustrated, would you? And there would have been no five-game losing streak, would there? They’d have nipped it in the bud early.
But it’s not any one thing. It is complicated. It’s not easy. And your patience had been tested unlike any time in the three years you’ve been watching the Golden Knights.
Sure, they’ve had slumps before. Remember the inaugural season when they lost four in a row in November? You no doubt recall the start to last year. Of course, there were excuses in the form of injuries and suspensions.
But this? This felt different. This latest run of misfortune that perhaps saw its permanent end Sunday was borne not out of excuses but out of frustration and perhaps a dose of reality that maybe, just maybe, this team isn’t as good as everyone thought.
You wanted Cody Eakin gone yesterday. He finally scored and played well on the second line with Mark Stone and Jonathan Marchessault. You wondered what happened to Mark Stone’s goal-scoring touch? Stone finally got off the ziggy and scored for the first time since Halloween.
You’ve been kvetching about William Karlsson. The guy was stellar Sunday with a pair of goals and an assist and has now scored in three straight games. His headman pass to Max Pacioretty on the third goal was brilliant in its simplicity and deadly in its accuracy.
Also, Wild Bill’s great work in the defensive end included a couple of blocked shots that may have prevented the Flames from scoring.
And Nate Schmidt came alive with four assists, skating the puck out of his own end and making smart plays in front of Marc-Andre Fleury, who was steady throughout and spectacular when he needed to be in recording his second shutout of the year following a 34-save performance.
The whole group was good tonight. That’s got to be our standard. -Schmidt
This was not just about turning around some individuals’ luck. This was an entire team having a chance to exhale, to get its bearings back and feel good about itself.
You look at everybody who contributed, not sitting back and scoring a couple in the 3rd periods. It was important to the future of this team. -Pacioretty
He’s right. The team’s collective psyche has been under siege of late. And while it’s just one win, as Fleury said afterward, you have to start somewhere. But when you’re able to relax, play your game, do it for the entire 60 minutes and be rewarded as the Knights were Sunday, perhaps you can get on a streak in the other direction.
When your best players are contributing and the others pick up their games, this is what you get — an impressive performance that leaves you feeling good about things. At least for one night.
It was a process. We played well the last couple of games but we weren’t rewarded. Tonight we played the right way and we got rewarded. It was big to get our overall confidence back. -Gallant.
It’s a big week coming up for the Knights. They host a struggling Toronto team Tuesday, have a Pacific Division battle with San Jose Thursday and host first-place Edmonton Saturday. Gallant may have been tempted to edit out or burn altogether portions of the tape from some of these five games his team had lost. But he should always keep a copy of Sunday’s game around, just to remind his guys of what’s possible when they play the way they did against the Flames.
If they can remember what they did in this one, by this time next Sunday, they could have extricated themselves from that hole they had dug for themselves and perhaps be closer to the top of the division than the bottom, which is where they were when they woke up Sunday morning.
There are a couple of other items I’d like to address if I may.
I got to T-Mobile early Sunday afternoon and joined a couple thousand fans to watch the movie “Valiant.” It brought back a ton of memories, both good and bad. And being someone who was there every step of the way and being able to chronicle what happened in my book “Vegas Born,” the movie was a powerful reminder of just how special that inaugural season was.
It was exceptionally well done by Cruz Angeles and it’s not easy to capture everything in a limited amount of time (It’s 90 minutes long).
One thing that caught my attention in watching the film were how many people are no longer part of the team and the organization. Players James Neal, David Perron, Erik Haula, Colin Miller, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Luca Sbisa, Ryan Carpenter, Brendan Leipsic and Jason Garrison. Organization folks Murray Craven and Jonny Greco and a number of other hockey ops people. They were such a big part of that first year.
I’m sure there will be other opportunities to view this film. If you didn’t see it Sunday, make sure you do. As a bonus, you get to hear Ken’s takes throughout the film on the team and the season.
The other thing I’d like to talk about is this coming Thursday.
The NHL gets criticized a lot for a lot of things, some of it justified. But the NHL has a collective soul when it comes to supporting worthy causes and one of the most important is the Hockey Fights Cancer initiative.
Every November, all 31 teams acknowledge the cause throughout the month and there’s usually something special that accompanies the particular team’s Hockey Fights Cancer event.
For me, a cancer survivor, this is very personal. As many of you know, I had my own lengthy battle with Stage 4 follicular thyroid cancer back in 2001, and while I’m glad to be cancer-free, I stand for those who are waging their own fight.
Here in Las Vegas, the Golden Knights have their own personal story in defenseman Shea Theodore, who has had his battle with testicular cancer. He is winning that battle and no doubt when the Knights hold their Hockey Fights Cancer night this Thursday, Shea’s story will be front and center.
That’s important. But let’s also remember the thousands who will attend the game with the Sharks at T-Mobile, virtually all of who have either been affected directly by cancer themselves or know someone who has. You are no less important and that’s why Hockey Fights Cancer exists. It’s as much about you, those who support this great game, as it is for any professional athlete.
Let’s be there for each other Thursday. And for that matter, every day.
**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**